The Congress slams govt for mine lease renewal without auction

The Congress has criticised the Centre for not taking the auction route for renewing leases of 358 mines and failing to answer to the Supreme Court”s notice for giving some lease extensions for 50 years.

Demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera here on Monday alleged the move had caused around Rs 4 lakh crore revenue loss to the exchequer.

The Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1948 was changed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi government in 2015 and several mining leases were renewed and extended for 50 years with retrospective effect in exchange for donations, Khera alleged.

He said the Supreme Court had in April issued notice to the government on a petition demanding an inquiry into the renewal of several leases for iron ore and other mines.

The apex court has appointed a senior advocate as amicus curiae to help determine the truth behind these allegations, he said.

“Five months have passed and the government has failed to answer to the Supreme Court notice,” Khera said.

“The amendment allowed the government to extend leases of existing mines without taking the auction route,” he said and added, the Congress had opposed the manner in which the select committee, which went into the Bill to replace the ordinance, was “deliberately” given small window and could not consult states.

On the Congress stand on the amendments passed in 2015, Khera said we didn”t issue a whip but our protest was very loud, very well reported.

To another question whether this should be reauctioned, Khera said: “Yes, there should be a probe and the guilty be punished. Who is responsible for the loss to the exchequer? There should be auction.”

He also referred late Arun Jaitley”s strong pitch for auction for allocation of resources.

Referring to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Khera said it should probe renewal of lease “with the same enthusiasm” as displayed in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime.



Bhupen Khakhar’s painting on homosexuality breaks auction record

“Two Men in Benares”, a 1980s painting by Indian contemporary artist Bhupen Khakhar has set a new auction record for the painter by selling at a whopping $3.2 million here.

The sale took place at the Sotheby’s auction house on Monday. Going under the hammer was the “Coups de Coeur: The Guy and Helen Barbier Family Collection”, an offering of 29 artworks from one of the finest collections of 20th century Indian art in private hands.

When Khakhar (1934-2003) first unveiled “Two Men in Benares” in Mumbai in 1986, he became the first Indian artist to freely disclose his sexual orientation through his work.

The painting shows two naked men in embrace. It “is the most explicit of what the artist himself called his ‘efforts to come-out in open’, and to create a new iconography of homosexual love”, Sotheby’s said on its website.

Khakhar was India’s pioneering openly gay artist.

Widely considered among the artist’s best works, the painting later starred in Tate Modern’s 2016 “You Can’t Please All” exhibition of Khakhar’s work, the first retrospective of an Indian artist to be held at the institution, Sotheby’s said.

Other works of art at the auction included M.F. Husain’s “Marathi Woman” (1950) that sold for $553,146; a rare figurative work by Ram Kumar, “Untitled (Man and Woman Holding Hands)” painted as a present for the artist’s wife in 1953, sold for $659,960.

The “Anatomy of that Old Story” (1970) from Rameshwar Broota’s ‘Ape’ series also sold for $537,887.

Ishrat Kanga, Head of Sales ay the global auction house said: “These exceptional results are a fitting tribute to the pioneering spirit of Guy and Helen Barbier, who passionately sought out exceptional examples of Indian art at a time when few others thought to.

“They collected with a ‘coups de coeur’, acquiring works that they truly loved and with a real commitment to discovering and celebrating Indian art.”

Another sale on Monday here saw Francis Newton Souza’s monumental Untitled painting being sold for $1.5 million.

Described by the artist himself as a ‘probable masterpiece’, the painting tells the Old Testament story of Susanna and the Elders — which has been being rendered artistically in Europe, most notably since the European Renaissance.



$91mn ‘Rabbit’ sculpture sets new auction record

New York, May 16  A stainless-steel figure titled, “Rabbit” by American artist Jeff Koons has become the most expensive work by a living artist after it was sold for more than $91 million at an auction here, smashing previous records.

The just over 3 feet tall sculpture went under the hammer on Wednesday evening at the Christie’s auction house, reports CNN.

Christie’s initially estimated that Koons’ faceless “Rabbit” would sell for between $50 and $70 million. But the winning bid came in at $80 million which, after auctioneer’s fees, resulted in a final sale price of $91,075,000.

Prior to Wednesday’s sale, Christie’s had described the sculpture as “one of the most iconic works of 20th-century art”.

“It is crisp and cool in its appearance, yet taps into the visual language of childhood,” read a sale preview on the auction house’s website. “Its lack of facial features renders it inscrutable, yet its form evokes fun and frivolity.”

Koons’ 1986 sculpture is one from of an edition of three plus one artist’s proof. Another is kept at the Broad Foundation, in Los Angeles, while the third has been promised to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago by its owners, according to Christie’s.

The edition featured in Wednesday’s auction came from the collection of the late media mogul S.I. Newhouse. It has not been publicly exhibited for more than 30 years.

The new record comes just six months after David Hockney’s “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” set a new benchmark for a living artist, when it sold for $90.3 million last November — also at Christie’s.

The British painter’s artwork had itself overtaken Koons’ “Balloon Dog (Orange)” sculpture, the previous record-holder, which went for $58.4 million in 2013.



Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi’s 13 luxury cars on auction

Thirteen luxury cars owned by fugitive diamantaires Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi went on online auction by the Metals & Scrap Trading Corporation, here on Thursday.

The auction is being carried out on behalf of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) which had seized these vehicles from Modi and Choksi last year.

The vehicles include a silver Rolls Royce with a reserve price of Rs 1,33,00,000, a Porsche worth Rs 54,60,000, a red Mercedes Benz Rs 14,00,000, a white Mercedes Benz Rs 37,80,000 and a BMW Rs 9,80,000.

Besides, there are two Honda Brio, Toyota Innova, Honda CRV, Toyota Fortuner, Skoda Superb Elegance, Toyota Corolla Altis and Toyota Innova Crysta.

Of these 13 vehicles, the BMW and Toyota Innova Crysta belong to Choksi and the rest belong to Modi, his family and his group companies.

Prior to the auction, the prospective bidders were permitted physical inspection of the vehicles at various locations earlier this week.

A MSTC official said that by 4 p.m. the highest bidders shall be known and communicated to the ED which will take the final decision on awarding the successful bids.

The ED auction follows an order of the Special PMLA court permitting the sale of these cars.