Sixty-eight artworks, formerly owned by fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, are set to go under the hammer on Monday at Mumbai’s JK Banquets, where many of them are on display as part of the auction preview. The Income Tax Department had recovered the artworks after sealing Nirav’s properties, and selected Saffronart to conduct an auction on their behalf, after a screening process that lasted a few weeks.
Their excitement was palpable as the auction house team prepared for the big day at the firm’s temporary auctioneering venue. Saffronart CEO and co-founder Dinesh Vazirani was in town to engage with interested clients as well as see the event through. The IT Department aims to recover Rs 95,91,82,589 through the auction. “This is the first time the IT Department has reached out to a professional auction house to conduct an art auction on their behalf,” he said.
The 68 works, by Indian and Chinese artists, make up the entire live auction section of Saffronart’s upcoming auction. Among these, the top slots are occupied by Raja Ravi Varma, Akbar Padamsee and V S Gaitonde, according to the Saffronart team. The 1881 painting by Raja Ravi Verma depicts the Maharaja of Travancore welcoming the Third Duke of Buckingham on an official visit in 1980. The oil on canvas alone is expected to fetch up to Rs 18 crore. The Padamsee, titled Grey Nude, will likely fetch Rs 2 crore whereas the untitled Gaitonde is labelled ‘estimate on request’. Among other artists are F N Souza, Jogen Chowdhury and Bhupen Khakhar. “The approximate estimate value for this auction is Rs 30-70 crore,” said Vazirani.
Vazirani said the process of conducting this auction will not differ from the routine, with the exception of the general guidelines as per Second Schedule to the Income Tax Act, 1961. “And as per standard process, all unsold works will be returned to the Tax Recovery Offer, who is the seller in this auction,” Vazirani said.