20 September, 2020
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Raiders Of The Ark

Canny French dealers loot Le Corbusier's legacy in Chandigarh and sell it overseas

Suryakanth Bhagat
Raiders Of The Ark
These men would do Roald Dahl's parson proud. Like the character in his short story Parson's Pleasure, who went scouring the English countryside persuading ignorant country folk to part for a pittance with furniture they thought was worthless, but was actually an exquisite Chippendale commode or pricelees Queen Anne chairs, a few French collectors have zeroed in on Le Corbusier's forgotten legacy in Chandigarh and made a killing out of it.

Buying heavily at routine government auctions of "junk" furniture, stalking old employees of Corbusier and his cousin and collaborator on the Chandigarh project, Pierre Jeanneret, and acquiring neglected artefacts lying with them, these collectors have bought symbols of Corbusier's heritage—from manhole covers to wood-and-cane chairs—for as little as Rs 100, restored it to pristine perfection at a workshop in Delhi and shipped it to exhibitions and sales at Paris and New York galleries. As recently as June 5, leading auction house, Christie's New York, auctioned off around 50 lots of furniture and...


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