Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In an antiquarian world

Next week’s auction of printed works could be a pointer to a growing interest beyond the stranglehold of painted canvases.

In a country with a short history of art auctions, similarities rather than differences have been a distinguishing hallmark. Which is why collectors can look forward to next week’s auction in Bangalore of “antiquarian books, maps, prints & photographs”. Auction house Bid & Hammer has had a somewhat chequered career in the Garden City, often mixing antiquarian prints with sculpture and art. But this 232-lot auction is its most focused and ambitious to date.

The works to be auctioned include delightful and occasional first edition books, lithograph prints, engravings, hand-coloured aquatints, maps, printed pages from journals and newspapers (from Illustrated London News to advertisements in the annual supplements of The Times of India of the twenties and thirties) and illustrations that were probably reproduced in books and have been turned into sets of images, duly framed for the collectors’ edification (such as the typecast portraits published in The Costumes of Indoostan).

In most collecting societies, antiquarian books and prints are either the starting point or useful in filling gaps — in this case in the way the “Empire” was positioned back home with an eye to showing off its flora, fauna, landscapes, architecture and, unsurprisingly, its rajas and merchants, traders and nautch girls. If these books and views and prints were in high demand in Britain before India’s independence, waning interest there has hardly kept up with antiquarian interest in India. It is only now, that Indians, confident about their nationhood and selves, are ready to bid for a past when India was Hindostan, and we are able to look back with amusement, rather than anger, at places that were called (or at any rate spelled) Nepaul and Birmah, the Sinde and Boorhanpore.

Full report here Business Standard 

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