Nabbing the art thief
No collector or connoisseur can ever be sure of whether an acquisition is genuine or not. And when artists like Husain are equally at sea, forgers can only be having a field day. It is only when the media raises a stink that everybody sits up and takes notice, says
INDIAN artists are now paying the price of popularity. Mounting prices and increasing acceptability of art pieces worldwide have on the one hand, revived the menace of counterfeits and on the other, brought the issue of insurance into sharp focus.
At the centre of these concerns, is one name, Maqbool Fida Husain. The celebrated painter recently became the subject of much amusement when he failed to identify the copy of one of his paintings he had gifted to a friend in Kolkata Husain went so far as to doff his hat to the accomplished forgery!
The fake story came close on the heels of the reported robbery of another Husain painting, Time, which the artist estimates at Rs 7 million. The theft occurred at an exhibition put up by the Asian Cultural Forum in a shamiana at Hyderabad.
"Security needs to be stepped up at art shows," said the heartbroken artist. "At most galleries, there are no guards and anyone can take off with a painting. You cannot stop it. Can you imagine the well-heeled and high-heeled running after an art thief?"
Hussain, known for his penchant to show up at formal dos without footwear, had a more hilarious take on his paintings being the most widely forged: "At this rate, I am inclined to think that if your works are not copied, then you must be a fake!"
Fakes though, are not new to the art world. Many even feel that a copy is the biggest compliment that can be paid to an artist and more often than not, he refuses to initiate action against what amounts to be the theft of his "intellectual property".
Consequently, no collector or connoisseur can ever be sure of whether an acquisition is genuine or not. And when artists like Hussain are equally at sea, forgers can only be having a field day. It is only when the media raises a stink that everybody sits up and takes notice.
Instances of fake Razas, Jamini Royas and Manjit Bawas put up for sale are still fresh in public memory. Artist Laxamn Shreshta remembers how Raj Kapoor’s daughter, Ritu Nanda had a gallery of "copies" in Delhi. Another artist, F.N. Souza joked that she could expand it into a "mini museum" for all it was worth!
Souza himself had been a
victim of forgers in his lifetime. As art critic Nisha Jamwal recalls,
how she was looking for some Souzas in 1998 and was offered a set of
paintings by his son, Patrick for only Rs 20,000 a piece. "To
cross-check, I mailed photographs of the paintings to Souza in
Paris," she narrates. "He wrote back to say all 57 of them
were fake." MF