Auction house disputes 'fake Hussains' claim by trust

Written By Unknown on Jumat, 27 Juni 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: A day before its scheduled Friday auction of "Significant Indian Art'' Bangalore-based auction house Bid & Hammer disputed claims made by The MF Hussain Foundation that 22 works of the late artist up for bidding were fake. The Foundation had sent the auctioneers a legal notice on Thursday claiming the 22 paintings and books by Hussain to be auctioned were ''unauthenticated''.

The auction house, through their advocate S V Ganesh, had immediately on Thursday, not only disputed the lack of authenticity but attributed 'malafides'' to the "timing of the notice'' and warned of legal consequences against the "unverified claim''.

MZM Legal, a Mumbai-based law firm wrote to Bid & Hammer Auctioneers (P) Ltd on June 26 to express concern on behalf of its clients, the Foundation. It asked the auctioneers to desist from placing Hussain's works in a lot of 22 paintings and books, under the hammer.

The Foundation, its lawyers, said, comprises legal heirs of Hussain and alone hold exclusive right to reproduce, modify, distribute and deal with his paintings and books. The Foundation said the artworks—also to be auctioned online—"were unauthentic, forged and fake.'' "...They suffer from copyright shortcoming and sale of such items is strictly punitive and cognizable under the Indian laws—copyright, criminal and civil.'' It sought "strict proof and production of receipts and certificates of authentication'' from the auction house and cautioned that legal action would be initiated if the auction continues.

Bid & Hammer questioned the authority of the Foundation in claiming sole rights, sought verification of its claim and warned it of legal consequences if the paintings remain unsold at the auction.

In his reply advocate Ganesh wrote, "It is unfortunate that your client has waited till the penultimate moment to raise objections... My client instructs me that only malafides can be attributed to the timing of your notice.'' He said, "my client vehemently disputes that the Foundation is the sole authority to deal with the works of the artist.''

The auctioneers asked the Foundation to "clarify'' the legality and basis of its claim. " Please furnish proof the fact that you have exercised this authority with other auction houses or art dealers in the past,'' his letter added.

"My client further disputes your client's view that the paintings are not authentic. Without prejudice to the contention that your client is not an authority to adjudicate upon the authenticity of any art work, my client states that in the absence of a physical verification of the paintings, an opinion in relation to authenticity cannot be rendered. The premature opinion of your client therefore smacks of malafides,'' it said.

Advocate Zulfiqar Memon of MZM Legal said,''The attempt to auction unauthorised and fake art has exposed the tip of the iceberg. Serious attention needs to be given to international counterfeiting of art.''

In a reply to TOI over the authenticity issue, advocate Ganesh said, ''My only reply is reiteration of my client's stand that in order to ascertain the genuineness or otherwise of a painting or any art object, a physical examination of the painting or art object is a must. This has not been done by the "Foundation" and hence the claim of the "Foundation" can only be an unverified guess.''

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