UT to auction heritage items of Chandigarh

| | Chandigarh
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UT to auction heritage items of Chandigarh

Friday, 06 March 2020 | Nishu Mahajan | Chandigarh

The Chandigarh Administration is all set to cash in on city’s heritage items. For, the Chandigarh Heritage Items Protection Cell on Thursday gave in principal approval to conduct auction of heritage items belonging to the city.

During the first meeting of re-constituted Chandigarh Heritage Items Protection Cell under the chairmanship of UT Advisor Manoj Parida here, it was decided that the Administration will invite internationally renowned auction houses for holding the auction of heritage items.

The Protection Cell approved an action plan for identification, restoration and use of heritage items in Chandigarh. Deepika Gandhi, Director, Le Corbusier Centre, who had prepared the action-plan, gave a presentation elaborating it during the meeting.

Following Administration’s nod to the action plan on Thursday, an expert committee would now be constituted for conducting physical verification of heritage items, certification of genuine heritage items, restoration and preservation of such items and to conduct its auction.

All these works would be done in collaboration with France based Fondation Le Corbusier. A five-member team from the Fondation is scheduled to visit Chandigarh next month to assist the Administration in physical verification of heritage items, its certification and restoration.

Only last month, a French delegation comprising Brigitte Bouvier, Director, France based Fondation Le Corbusier had visited the city to hold discussion with UT Administration on issues related to preservation and restoration of heritage buildings and items.

According to an inventory prepared by the UT Administration in the year 2012, Chandigarh has ‘12793’ heritage items designed by city’s creator Franco-Swiss 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.

In the past one decade, renowned foreign auction houses have shoveled in millions through the auction of Chandigarh’s heritage items including tables, teak stools, arm chairs, lounge chairs, book cases, manholes, coffee tables, executive desks and others.


“As the value of Chandigarh’s heritage items is very high in international market, the Chandigarh Heritage Items Protection Cell has decided to hold auction of such items to generate revenue,” said a member of Chandigarh Heritage Items Protection Cell requesting anonymity.

The member said that an expert committee would be constituted to carry out physical verification of heritage items. Through this, genuine heritage items would be identified and their certification would be done, the member said. A team from France based Fondation Le Corbusier is scheduled to visit the city in April to help the Administration in the entire process. They will train officials here for carrying out preservation and restoration works, the member added.

As only a three-member Chandigarh Heritage Inventory Committee, constituted by UT Administration was involved in the finalization of heritage inventory in the year 2011 and 2012, doubts looms over the “genuineness” of identified heritage items belonging to the city. During the meeting, concerns were also raised over the theft of heritage manhole covers in the city.  There are around 2224 cast iron manhole covers bearing an impression of Chandigarh map, which were designed by architect Le Corbusier in 1950s.

It was decided to include a member from Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh in the Heritage Items Protection Cell to chalk out a plan for the preservation of heritage manhole covers.

Notably, Paris based auction house Artcurial had auctioned a city’s manhole cover for 17,851 Euros (Rs 10.87 lakh) in 2010 while in 2007, another manhole cover bearing the master plan of Chandigarh designed by Corbusier had fetched a whopping USD 21,000 (Rs 830,000) at a Christie’s auction in New York.



With renowned foreign auction houses continue to put under hammer the heritage furniture belonging to the city, the Administration has decided to write a letter to Embassies of various countries to draw their attention towards the “fake” heritage furniture and other items that is being sold as Chandigarh’s heritage items.

“The Administration has decided to write to the Embassies of the countries where the heritage items are being auctioned. There are doubts that fake heritage furniture is being sold by foreign based auction houses and the same would be informed to the Embassies,” said the member of Heritage Items Protection Cell.

During the meeting, Chandigarh based advocate Ajay Jagga, who is the member of the Protection Cell raised the issue of auction of city’s heritage furniture held at Chantilly in France in March.

Paris based auction house had held the auction of lot of furniture designed by Pierre Jeanneret, a close associate of city’s architect Le Corbusier. A sofa and two sofa chairs fetched a whopping prize of Rs 53.93 lakh followed by two arm chairs which were sold for Rs 28.60 lakh at the auction.

Meanwhile, UT Adviser Manoj Parida said that awareness would be created at every possible level, domestically or internationally, regarding illegal auction of heritage items of Chandigarh across the globe. For this, use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter etc could also be made.

He also directed the officials to identify three to four places of the city wherein the heritage items could be placed.

Notably, the Administration has attracted severe criticism over regular auction of city’s heritage furniture items abroad. While the UT Administration had in the past taken up the matter with British Embassy and French Embassy to put an end to the auction of the drawings, sketches and furniture designed by Le Corbusier and his associate Pierre Jeanneret, many auction houses continue to put under the hammer lots of furniture designed by city’s creators.

The furniture and other items categorized as heritage was designed in the late 50s for the government offices here but the furniture was replaced in the late 80s and 90s.  Most of the UT Departments, unaware of the international worth of this furniture, had auctioned these as a part of junk.

But after several years, it came as a big surprise to the UT Administration when the city’s furniture, sold as a junk for mere rupees in government auctions, went on sale for thousands of dollars by an auction house abroad in 2007.

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