Tamil Nadu

Auction house withdraws Adimoolam’s paintings after family questions authenticity

Subramanya Bharathi with wife Chellamma   | Photo Credit: K.M. Adimoolam Foundation of Arts and visual Sensibilities

The Netherlands-based auction house Hessink’s temporarily withdrew nine paintings of renowned painter K.M. Adimoolam that were about to be auctioned on Wednesday after his family alleged that they were not his works.

The paintings were part of 133 works of various artists being auctioned from the private collections of Lalit Verma, a Puducherry-based curator, art collector and photographer. Among them were 10 paintings listed as the works of Adimoolam.

‘Bought in early 70s’

Mr. Verma contested the family’s allegations and said the paintings were acquired directly from Adimoolam in the early seventies by his late father-in-law (whose name Mr. Verma wanted withheld), who was a well-known collector and patron of arts.

Aparajithan Adimoolam, son of Adimoolam, an artist himself and head of Visual Arts Department at Kalakshetra Foundation, said he got to know about the auction on Tuesday after a collector sent him the online link at Hessink’s. Apart from the first one, an abstract oil painting, the remaining nine were not his father’s, he said.

He said the paintings were “poorly drawn” and “awkwardly composed” for the calibre of Adimoolam, a finest draughtsman known for his realistic and highly stylised painting. Stating that the paintings did not fit into Adimoolam’s oeuvre, he said they were mentioned as done in 1970-71, after the artist finished his famous series on Mahatma Gandhi in 1969.

Highlighting that Adimoolam’s interest was shifting from representation to abstraction in this period, he said the late artist used colours minimally till about 1978-79 when he moved on to oil on canvas. “But these nine works are full of colour, subjects are unusual and do not have any context,” he said. He added that the artist’s works in each period, right from his early academic drawings, were clearly demarcated in his collection, ‘Between the Lines’, published in 1997.

The well-known artist Trotsky Marudu, a contemporary of Adimoolam, who worked with him during the seventies, said he was suspicious of the lack of availability of very high-resolution images at the auction house’s website. “There are no technical difficulties in making such images available. If they encouraged interested buyers and enthusiasts to bid online, why did they not make such images available for verification,” he asked.

While Adimoolam’s work was influenced by folk art and terracotta figurines in temples, the iconography seen in these nine paintings was something the late artist had never used, he said. He added that Adimoolam could never have done these paintings.

Mr. Verma said the paintings were part of a collection that was acquired in entirety by his father-in-law. Stating that it possibly explained why they did not match with the artist’s other works, he said this lack of resemblance itself could not be a reason to doubt the authenticity. “It is not unusual for artists to get inspired and experiment with new styles for a short period and move on to something else,” he said. “If we wanted to forge his work, we could have created something that resembled his other paintings. Why should we create something very different,” he quipped.

Reiterating that the paintings were authentic works of Adimoolam, he said such allegations would bring disrepute to arts in India, which was already struggling.

Initially a spokesperson for Hessink’s told The Hindu that they found it unusual that Adimoolam’s family did not approach the auction house immediately when they thought the paintings looked suspicious. Mr. Aparajithan, however, said he sent an email to the auction house on the evening of Tuesday, the same day he got to know about the auction.

A representative of the auction house said it had stringent policies and took complaints about authenticity very seriously. However, he added that it did all possible due diligence, including verification of the artist’s signature and provenance and compared his other works, and confirmed its authenticity based on the details provided by Mr. Verma.

On Tuesday night, the auction house confirmed in an email that it had temporarily withdrawn the paintings “until further clarification and expert analysis”.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 6:23:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/auction-house-withdraws-adimoolams-paintings-after-family-questions-authenticity/article34645298.ece

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