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Mumbai, March 6, 2020
Fugitive diamond jeweller Nirav Modi’s collection of paintings, designer handbags, other luxury items, besides a Rolls Royce, which were auctioned by the Enforcement Directorate fetched it handsome returns here yesterday.
The auction by India’s leading international auction house, Saffronart, achieved White Glove sales – an auction where every lot or item is actually sold – raising Rs 53.45 crore for the Enforcement Directorate.
Saffronart’s Spring Live Auction saw a world record for MF Husain’s masterpiece, ‘Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12, 1972,’ which sold for a whopping Rs 13.44 crore.
Amrita Sher-Gil’s rare 1935 painting, ‘Boys with Lemons,’ which was auctioned for the first time, fetched the directorate Rs 15.7 crore. Other artworks that fetched hefty sums included V S Gaitonde’s Tranquil 1972 painting (Rs 9.52 crore), Manjit Bawa’s Untitled (1992 – Rs 6.16 crore) and Raja Ravi Varma’s enigmatic portrait (Rs 2.8 crore).
This was the first time that the directorate appointed a professional auction house to conduct auction of seized assets. The Enforcement Directorate had set a pre-auction estimate of Rs 41 crore, which was comfortably overtaken during the auctions.
In March 2019, Saffronart had conducted an auction of seized paintings on behalf of the Income Tax Department.
Says Dinesh Vazirani, CEO and Co-Founder, Saffronart: “We are pleased to have begun this auction season with our Spring Live and Online Auctions both of which achieved White Glove sales with 100% lots sold, and raised a combined total of Rs53.45 crore for the Directorate of Enforcement. We saw intensely competitive bidding across categories and from around the world.”
According to him, the high prices achieved for leading modern artists such as M F Husain and Amrita Sher-Gil demonstrate the demand for Indian art is very strong, and the frenzied bidding on watches, handbags and cars – most of which sold in multiples of their estimates – underscores the thriving market for luxury collectibles.
Interestingly, the elegant Rolls-Royce Ghost owned by Modi, currently in a British prison and facing extradition to India witnessed a high demand, selling for twice its estimate at Rs 1.68 crore. Other items that were sold at attractive prices included B Vithal’s untitled bronze sculpture (Rs 19 lakh), the Girard-Perregaux ‘Opera One’ riple Bridge Tourbillon Wristwatch (Rs 95.2 lakh and more than 30 times its estimate), a rare Audemars Piguet ‘Jules Audemars Grand Complication’ Automatique Wristwatch (sold for more than four times its estimate at Rs 78.4 lakh), and a dazzling 18K yellow gold and diamond evening bag by Van Cleef and Arpels, which sold for four times its estimate at Rs 20.16 lakh.