Three heritage items from Chandigarh auctioned in USA for Rs 1.12 cr, highest amount earned since 2009

Furniture designed by Corbusier at City Museum, Chandigarh. (File photo)

A pair of arm chairs designed by French architect Le Corbusier and his associate, Pierre Jeanneret, for High Court and Assembly, Chandigarh, went for a whopping Rs 69.58 lakh during an auction of Chandigarh heritage furniture in USA.

A sofa went for Rs 34.59 lakh, while an executive desk designed for administrative buildings Chandigarh went for Rs 7.39 lakh. The three items together were auctioned for Rs 1.12 crore, which is the highest amount earned from auctioning Chandigarh heritage furniture since 2009.

Member of Heritage Protection Cell Ajay Jagga has now written to Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, Government of India, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Legal Attache Office of United States, US Embassy, New Delhi, on the issue.

Over one and a half years, as many as 40 heritage furniture items from Chandigarh have been auctioned at various auction houses abroad for a whopping amount of Rs 2.14 crore till now. The UT Administration has remained a mute spectator till now.

Recently, Jagga even wrote to Chief Architect under UT Administration Kapil Setia to ensure that all local auctions, held for administration s and other departments scrap, be under the scanner of the cell as it opines that heritage furniture is being auctioned under the garb of scrap at these local auctions.

In the letter, Jagga wrote, Kindly see what best can be done, so as to use the forum for protection and conservation of our cultural objects (heritage of Chandigarh). International law, today, appears to focus on strengthening of protection for movable assets notably, including artistic and archeological assets. Crimes variously related to artistic, cultural and archeological assets present a very diffuse phenomenon, nationally as well as internationally, and little is known about their nature and extent.

He further stated in the letter, Thus Resolution 2004/34 of 21 July 2004, Protection Against Trafficking in Cultural Property,12 of the Economic and Social Council notes that organised criminal groups are involved in trafficking stolen cultural property and that the international trade in looted, stolen or smuggled cultural property is estimated at several billion US dollars per year. Hence, you are requested to look into the matter and seek a report on the Protection Against Trafficking in Cultural Property, specially of Chandigarh, so that the loopholes can be plugged and a suitable action be taken, after ascertaining the facts.