M A I N   N E W S

Special to the tribune
Bhabha’s rare assets up for auction in Mumbai
Shyam Bhatia in Mumbai

Paintings by India’s leading heritage artists are expected to fetch tens of crores when they go under the hammer on the second day on Thursday at a unique auction in Mumbai.

Tyeb Mehta’s ‘Untitled’ oil on canvas, painted in 1969 and measuring 59x 49.5 inches, is one of the most sought after items at the auction, which started on Wednesday under the auspices of Pundole’s art gallery.

Last month another untitled work of Mehta, measuring 59x47 inches, fetched a record Rs 7.19 crore at another Mumbai auction, the highest price ever paid for a painting in the country.

Apart from Mehta’s paintings, other works of art, which will be eagerly scrutinised by potential buyers when bidding starts on Thursday, include an oil painting by the late Vasudev Gaitonde with an estimated value of upto Rs 3 crore, as well as paintings by MF Husain, Rathindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy, Krishnaji Howlaji Ara, Narayan Shridhar Bendre, B. Prabha and Bikash Bhattacharjee.

They all belong to the estate of Jamshed Bhabha, brother of the physicist and founding father of India’s nuclear programme, the late Dr Homi Bhabha, who died when his Air India Boeing crashed over Mont Blanc in 1966.

A Cambridge graduate like his brother, Jamshed started his professional life as personal assistant to JRD Tata, later becoming a director of Tata Sons. An eccentric by reputation, he was never as well known as his brother and remained extremely jealous of his success and the regard in which he was held by Jawaharlal Nehru and other members of the ruling establishment.

The resentment extended to Homi’s surviving friend, the late Ms Pipsy Wadia, who was left in charge of many of the dead scientist’s personal and professional papers. These were forcibly removed from her home on Jamshed’s orders who threatened to “burn them”.

In actual fact he willed them to the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. When Homi died childless, however, Jamshed also inherited his many other priceless possessions, including paintings, furniture, jewellery and other works of art.

Sales of the combined inheritance of both brothers, amounting to nearly 1,000 items, started on Wednesday. They included ceramics, glass, clocks and watches, as well as jewellery and gems. The coins that were sold included a set of three British India gold coins, including an East India Company gold mohur from 1841, as well as a set of four gold coins from Hyderabad state, made up of a one Ashrafi, a half Ashrafi, a quarter Ashrafi and a one eighth Ashrafi.

To his lasting credit, Jamshed was responsible for single handedly founding the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), described back in 1969 as a multi-crore project ‘to secure the national purpose of protecting, preserving and developing India’s immensely rich legacy in the arts and culture.”

The NCPA will be the beneficiary of the Bhabha auction, which is expected to yield more than Rs 200 crore by the time it finishes on Thursday.

RICH Collection

  • The combined inheritance of Dr Homi Bhabha and his brother Jamshed Bhabha is nearly 1,000 items
  • The assorted collection includes precious stones, ceramics, jewellery, glass pieces, clocks & watches
  • Jamshed is single-handedly responsible for founding the National Centre for the Performing Arts





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