Monday, January 06, 2020

Air India policing artworks so they don’t fly away

New Delhi: Air India, which the government is trying to sell, is keeping a close eye on about 40,000 pieces of art and other artefacts to ensure that it doesn’t lose any more of them, said people with knowledge of the matter.
 They include works by MF Husain, VS Gaitonde and Anjolie Ela Menon, and are valued at hundreds of crores of rupees. An investigation in 2017 had discovered that executives had walked off with several items over the years.
 The airline recently completed the exercise of tagging every painting and artefact it has received over the years. They are under 24-hour CCTV surveillance and the log is checked every second day to ensure everything is intact, said the people. To be sure, the hoard won’t go to Air India’s buyer but will most likely end up at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), said the people. The civil aviation ministry will decide on their eventual destination.
 “Though we have not done the evaluation as it is likely to get transferred to a government agency, considering the paintings are of MF Husain, VS Gaitonde and Anjolie Ela Menon, the value runs into hundreds of crores,” said one of the persons. “Besides, we have ancient stone sculptures, the value of which can be evaluated by professionals.”
 A case had been filed after the thefts became known in 2017 but it’s not known if any of the pieces have been recovered. Air India then decided to put together a list of all such valuables and entrust their security to a separate team.
 “With the sale of the airline imminent, the major threat was to ensure safety of these paintings and sculptures,” said another of the persons. “We have a digital record and every item has been given a number. We have approximately 40,000 items. The items at the regional centres are the responsibility of the station manager and he/she will be responsible for any theft. Besides round-the-clock monitoring, a physical check is carried out routinely.” According to Air India, most of the paintings were gifted or purchased when the artists weren’t famous.
 06/01/20 Faizan Haidar/Economic Times
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