Shimla: Rising value of Nicholas Roerich paintings in the international art market, and a controversy over management of the Russian artists estate at Naggar in Kullu valley where he died in 1947, has alerted state authorities here about getting the rich inventory of paintings at the estate museum authenticated. cataloge
An executive committee meeting of International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT) that looks after the estate recently decided to check and verify the inventory of painting and artifacts there.
“It was decided to ascertain the inventory of artifacts and paintings housed in the museum,” said Manisha Nanda, principal secretary Language Art & Culture who presided over the IRMT executive committee meeting.
The artists’ house now turned into a museum has Roerich paintings on permanent display.
With life time trust member SS Chandel having complained about mismanagement and alleged irregularities in the trusts functioning, doubts about the originality of the paintings on display have been cast.
“Despite my pointing it out several times, a board meeting of the trust has not been held for many years,” says Chandel. “Nor has the inventory been verified,” he adds
As an original Roerich work commands a price anywhere between Rs 75 lakhs to Rs 14 crore in the global art market, the committee decided to rope in experts from ministry of culture, Delhi and International Center of Roerich’s (ICR), Moscow to ascertain the originality of the paintings with the trust.
“We have sought help from ICR,” says Nanda.
Though experts are being roped in to validate the masterpieces but no one is sure about the number of original Roerich paintings at Naggar.
Though a 1996 catalogue puts the number at 52 which includes 38 by Nicholas Roerich and 14 by his son Svetoslav Roerich, the IRMT website counts only 48, with 37 of them being by senior Roerich and 11 by his son.
The paintings alone are said to value anywhere between Rs 50 Crore to Rs 100 crore.
With questions about management of the trust having been raised, Nanda said, “the trusts executive committee also decided to appoint a full time administrator for overseeing the estate.”
IRMT Kullu Trust management controversy
The Roerich’s multi crore estates at Kullu and Bangalore were converted into to trusts for management purposes by Devika Rani, an actress of yesteryears who was married to Svetoslav Roerich, in the 1992.
The Kullu estate trust with chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal as its ex-officio president also has about 5 board members of Russian origin which include Alexander M. Kadakin, Russian Ambassador to India.
The Indian trustees at Kullu have refused to renew the employment visa one Alena Adamkova, a foreign national, who from 2001 to 2011 served as a curator-cum-executive director with Roerich Museum with a firm grip on its day to day administration.
With no board meetings held for a long time, life time trustee SS Chandel alleged irregularities and in 2011 wrote to the chief minister seeking a probe into functioning of the trust.
With the Karnataka High Court in July 2002 having struck down foreigners being allowed to act as trustees on the IRMT, Bangalore trust, under the Indian Trusts Act, a ruling that was upheld by the Supreme Court in August 2011, legality of trustees of Russian origin permitted on the Kullu trust board have been raised.
Two paintings by Nicholas Roerich, Himalaya Kanchenjunga and Sunset Kashmir, stolen from Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi were auctioned for $ 2 million by Sotheby’s, London in Oct 2011, a case that CBI is probing.
A prolific artist Roerich (1874-1947), with thousands of paintings to his credit, is exhibited in all well known museums and art galleries across the globe.Having traveled extensively in America, Europe and Central Asia, the master artist finally came to settle at Naggar in 1929.
The portrait Roerich in a Tibetan Robes auctioned for $ US 2,994,500 by Christies is one of the highest price that a Roerich work has commanded in the art market.