Art collection of fugitive Indian billionaire to be auctioned

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A journalist takes photos of artworks once part of fugitive billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi’s collection ahead of their auction at a gallery in Mumbai. (Reuters)
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Francis Newton Souza’s “Cityscape”, left, and “Portrait of Suruchi Chand” during a media preview at the Saffron art gallery in Mumbai on Monday, March 25, 2019. (AFP)
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A staff member checks the frame of Raja Ravi Varma’s, “The Maharaja of Travancore and his younger brother welcoming Richard Temple-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Governor-General of Madras (1875-80), on his official visit to Trivandram in 1880”, during a media preview at the Saffron art gallery in Mumbai on Monday, March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019
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Art collection of fugitive Indian billionaire to be auctioned

  • Auctioneers say the sale is the first of its kind in the country
  • The sale in Mumbai of some 68 works is expected to fetch anywhere between $4.4 million and $7.3 million

MUMBAI: Indian tax authorities are hoping for a windfall with the auction on Tuesday of rare oil paintings that were once part of fugitive billionaire jeweler Nirav Modi’s collection and have been seized by the government.
Auctioneers say the sale is the first of its kind in a country where tax authorities have usually auctioned property, gold and luxury items, but not art.
After a court order allowing the auction to take place, tax authorities, who are pursuing Modi over the country’s largest bank fraud, appointed professional auction house Saffronart.
The sale in Mumbai of some 68 works is expected to fetch anywhere between $4.4 million and $7.3 million (300 million and 500 million rupees).
“Until a few years ago, the tax authorities really didn’t know the value of art,” said Farah Siddiqui, an art adviser who is advising clients eyeing Modi’s collection.
The 48-year-old Modi, whose diamonds have sparkled on Hollywood stars, is one of the primary accused in a $2 billion loan fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank. Modi denies the charges and believes they are politically motivated.
The auction comes just weeks before a national election and as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces pressure to bring back Nirav Modi (no relation), who fled the country last year and has been residing in the United Kingdom.
He was arrested last week by British authorities and remanded in custody after he appeared before a London court. India asked Britain last August to extradite Modi.
The auction includes works by Raja Ravi Varma, a 19th century painter considered among India’s finest, and V.S. Gaitonde, a modern artist known for his abstract and often monochromatic paintings.
“We believe that the collection’s intrinsic value will garner a positive response from collectors,” said Saffronart Chief Executive Dinesh Vazirani.
India Law Alliance, a law firm representing the company controlled by Modi that owns the artwork, said it was challenging the court order that allowed the auction. The case will be heard by the Bombay High Court on Wednesday, a lawyer at the firm told Reuters.
Vijay Aggarwal, a lawyer for Modi, declined to comment.


Etyen reveals supernatural soundtrack for ‘Jinn’

Samer Etienne Chami, aka Etyen. (Maria Jose Govea)
Updated 14 min 32 sec ago
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Etyen reveals supernatural soundtrack for ‘Jinn’

  • Lebanese producer scores Neflix's first original Arabic series
  • "“It was really inspiring to work together and exchange ideas and spend lots of time dissecting scenes and the meaning behind them."

DUBAI: Lebanese electronic music producer Etyen has entered the world of TV for the first time, composing the soundtrack for Netflix’s first Arabic original series “Jinn.”

Released last week, “Jinn” is a supernatural teen drama that promises to explore contemporary themes of jinn mythology, but from a “relatable-yet-unique young adult perspective.” Produced by Beirut-based Kabreet Productions and directed and executive produced by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, the five-episode series was shot on location in Jordan and stars a group of up-and-coming young actors. Two of the episodes were directed by Amin Matalqa, who also contributed to the show’s writing.

A versatile composer, producer, DJ and musician, Etyen, whose real name is Samer Etienne Chami, is known for performing dark and textured tracks, but also for the emotional thread that runs through most of his work.

“I was very lucky that I was initially chosen for my sound as Etyen,” said Chami, who released the dancefloor-friendly EP “Bebe” in late March. “So the process was very creative and inspiring for me. I was asked to do my thing, in a way, working within my own sound, while taking into consideration the cultural aspects of the show and working with the constraints of being part of a big production with so many moving parts.

“It was really exciting to be working in familiar territory sound-wise, and one that is very much me as Etyen, while also learning a lot about the role of music in film and serialized storytelling,” he continued. “Learning how to bring the show and the characters to life musically and working on themes to highlight different feelings. To guide the story as it evolves with each chapter.”

Etyen is used to collaborations. He recently produced and mixed Rabih Salloum’s “You Know the Days,” featuring Tamara Qaddoumi, and produced Pól’s “Conversation With A Stranger.” “Jinn,” however, is the first TV series soundtrack he has composed.

“Both directors, Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya and Amin Matalqa, responded well to the music I was making,” he said. “It was really inspiring to work together and exchange ideas and spend lots of time dissecting scenes and the meaning behind them, and refining things while focusing on pacing and tension building. All the little intricacies that come into play when you are scoring for film.”