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01 Jun 2010

UK: Indian artworks sale causes protest

[caption id="attachment_2458" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Untitled (Figures in Sepia). Photo: Sotheby's."][/caption]

Dartington Hall Trust in the UK has raised widespread criticism when it announced the forthcoming auction of a dozen paintings by Indian Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore.

The Dartington trustees hope the sale will raise up to £250,000 for the estate's expansion plans.

But the Sotheby's auction on June 15 has enraged members of the Tagore Centre in London who have accused the  Dartington trustees of selling off their cultural heritage and cashing in on the friendship between Tagore and the Elmhirsts, who founded the estate.

Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win the Nobel prize for literature in 1913, gave the paintings to the hall's founder Leonard Elmhirst — a close friend who worked as Tagore's private secretary in the 1920s.

Now the Tagore Centre members have protested to both the Indian High Commission in London and the Indian government in an attempt to put pressure on the trust to halt the sale.

The chief minister of Tagore's home area in West Bengal has sent an appeal direct to India's prime minister Manmohan Singh asking him to step in halt the sale of the paintings.

A spokesman for the Tagore Centre in London — which was set up 25 years ago in honour of the famous poet, novelist, musician and playwright — said: "We are in negotiations with the High Commissioner and we are bringing the Indian government into the picture. We hope something can be done to stop this."

The Dartington Hall Trust announces events planned in 2011 to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore. The Tagore 150 Festival will take place at Dartington from May 1 to 7, 2011, during which time it is planned the 12 paintings will be temporarily returned to Dartington for exhibit.

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