While veteran artist SH Raza was shocked to find himself opening an exhibition of Raza fakes, the art community is not surprised. Fakes in the Indian market have always been a problem, and several galleries and artists have been duped — Arpana Caur, Amrita Shergill, Somnath Hore, Manjit Bawa, Subodh Gupta, to name a few.
Uma Jain, director of Dhoomimal Gallery, which hosted the January 15 show of fakes, says, “The fact that we invited Raza saab to the show is proof of our authenticity. The paintings were in a consignment from his family member [Raza’s nephew, ZH Zafari] and we had approval from Raza saab.” Jain does not think Zafari could be involved, since he brought Raza to the show.
In 2007, Gallery Espace faced similar charges for Agony and Ecstasy, a show of works by Somnath Hore, sourced by the artist’s nephew. Hore’s wife and daughter said they were fake. Renu Modi of Gallery Espace says the nephew still claims they are authentic. She feels that in India, authenticity is often one man’s word against another’s. “We need a panel of experts and foundations to document and archive artists’ works.”
Bhavna Bawa, daughter of Manjit Bawa, plans to set up just such an expert panel for her father’s artworks, the prices of which are about to become stratospheric after his death. “Art that I sell directly will go with a dated bond paper and I will take full responsibility for them being authentic,” she says. But some responsibility rests on the buyer, too, she adds.