Roerich paintings safe in HP memorial, say experts

Sunday, 24 June 2012 12:33

A team of experts from Russia and the Himachal Pradesh government is said to have found the works of painter-philosopher Nicholas Roerich to be safe after a joint inspection this week, despite the ruckus over the alleged mismanagement of his memorial at Naggar.

The Russian Embassy in New Delhi claimed that all the paintings by Nicholas Roerich and his son Svetoslav at the International Roerich Memorial Trust had been verified against a catalogue made in 1996, vindicating the outgoing executive director and curator Alena Adamkova.

Adamkova has been accused of mismanagement and financial bungling. “All the 37 paintings by Nicholas Roerich and 12 more by Svetoslav have been found at the IRMT complex at Naggar and have been verified against the entries in the inventory made earlier. None of the paintings were found missing,” senior counsellor at the Russian Embassy in New Delhi, Sergey Karmalito, told Deccan Herald on Saturday.

A team of experts from the International Centre of the Roerichs in Moscow is verifying objects, collections and archives relating to Roerich along with local officials at  the Naggar IRMT complex.

Adamkova, supported by Russian Embassy, had rubbished allegations that some of the original Roerich paintings have been replaced with copies and claimed that all the originals, including one left unfinished by Svetoslav, were safe.

Roerich, who was also a scientist, author and traveler, had made Naggar his home after concluding his Central Asian expedition in 1928.

Before his death in 1947, he produced a large number of paintings of the Himalayan landscape and collected several priceless items of ethnographical and archaeological importance apart from setting up the research centre ‘Urusvati’.

In November 2010, London-based auctioneer Sothebys informed the Indian Agriculture Research Institute in Delhi that a client had presented two paintings by Roerich.The auction house also informed that the Roerich Museum at New York had confirmed that the paintings had earlier been in the IARI’s collection. In early 1990s, cine-star Devika Rani, who was married to Svetoslav, set up the IRMT, with Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister as president and Russian Ambassador to India as vice-president.

But over the last few months, the IRMT has been mired in controversy following allegations by former bureaucrat and life member of the Trust Shakti Singh Chandel that Adamkova had mismanaged the trust, prompting official enquiry by the Himachal government.

Adamkova, a Slovakian who lived in USSR and India for many years, has been the IRMT’s executive director and curator since 2001.

Despite her vehement denials of the accusations, the state government failed to renew her contract after December 2011 and Kullu district authorities tried removing her from the complex, prompting strong protests from the Russian Embassy with the Ministry of External Affairs. However, the row appeared to be getting resolved after Himachal Pradesh Government agreed to the Russian Embassy’s proposal for a joint verification of all the artefacts and collections at the Roerich Memorial by experts from Moscow along with local officials.

The MEA proposed two curators – one from India and another from Russia – to replace Adamkova. Russian Embassy already chose Mikhail N Chiriatev, a member of the ICR in Moscow and a trustee of the IRMT, as its nominee for the post of one of the curators.

Anirban Bhaumik, New Delhi, June 23, 2012, DHNS

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