Heritage items as ‘art treasures' in Chandigarh

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Heritage items as ‘art treasures' in Chandigarh

Wednesday, 15 January 2020 | Nishu Mahajan | Chandigarh

The heritage items in Chandigarh will get the status of “art treasures”, if the Chandigarh Administration’s proposal to give legal protection to such items turns into a reality.

In a bid to preserve heritage items in the city, the Chandigarh Administration is mulling over notifying them as “art treasures”.

The Administration has so far miserably failed to stop the theft of heritage items from Chandigarh and its auction being held by foreign based auction houses.

According to the inventory prepared by the UT Administration in the year 2012, Chandigarh has ‘12793’ heritage items designed by city’s creator French Architect Le Corbusier or his team associated with the founding and planning of the city in 1950s and 60s.

There are 190 different categories of the heritage items including drawings, murals, models, tapestries, chairs, tables, among others.

The Administration has also proposed to carry out “physical verification” of identified heritage items by experts to ascertain its “genuineness”.

As per the action plan chalked out for the restoration and preservation of heritage items, the Chandigarh Administration will approach Union Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), after consulting its Legal Department for giving legal protection to the heritage items.

“For the preservation of heritage items, we are exploring the option of declaring it as art treasures. It is proposed to approach ASI to notify Chandigarh’s heritage items as art treasures,” said a senior officer of UT Administration while talking to The Pioneer.

The proposal was discussed by Chandigarh Heritage Protection Cell. It was also recommended to collect data on previous instances of items being declared “art treasures” under the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, the senior officer said.

Pursuant to the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, the Union Ministry of Education and Social Welfare had promulgated the Antiquities and Art Treasure Rules, 1973. The rules state that the Central Government before declaring any human work of art as an “art treasure” may constitute a committee of at least three members to submit a report on the artistic and aesthetic value of such human work of art.

“Art treasure” means “any human work of art, not being an antiquity, declared by the Central Government by notification in the official gazette, to be an art treasure for the purposes of this Act having regard to its artistic or aesthetic value, provided that no declaration under this clause shall be made in respect of any such work of art so long as the author thereof is alive.”

The UT officer said that by giving a legal status to the heritage items, the Chandigarh Administration will be able to protect these items and take legal action in matters of theft or damage to heritage items.

Notably, the UT Administration had in 2014 also approached ASI seeking assistance in establishing the “genuineness” of heritage items, identified during the finalization of heritage inventory made in 2011 and 2012 here. However, the ASI had turned down the Administration’s request.

Quoting “The Antiquities And Art Treasures Act, 1972”, the ASI had in 2014 stated ‘antiquities’ which have been in existence for not less than 100 years viz. sculptures in stone, terracotta, metals, ivory Painting in paper, wood, cloth, skin etc and manuscripts are covered under the Act while the heritage items in the city are less than 60 years old.

 Hence, the ASI will not be able to assist the Administration in conservation works of heritage belonging to Chandigarh, stated the ASI in its letter.

Among various departments in Chandigarh, the UT Government Museum and Art Gallery has a possession of large number of heritage items including furniture, drawings, murals, models among others made by renowned architect Le Corbusier and his other associates. Besides, Punjab and Haryana Civil Secretariat, Punjab and Haryana Vidhan Sabha, Punjab and Haryana High Court also have huge stock of heritage furniture including chairs, sofas and tables.

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