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“We are there to tap the enormous potential of India’s internal market,” Mr Elwes told the Antiques Trade Gazette. He emphasised that for this new venture to succeed it was important to establish that the aim was to nurture auctions and collecting as a part of the country’s fast developing economy, not to export India’s heritage.

Opportunites for sales abroad certainly exist, but it is illegal to export items over 100 years old from India.
“The material is certainly there,” he said, pointing not only to the enormous wealth of indigenous textiles and other items but to
the exciting prospects of the Victorian and Edwardian colonial furnishings which are still to be found in the country.

Though there was a tradition of fine art auctioneering in India, particularly Calcutta, it died after independence as the public disposal of assets was inadvisable.

Mr Elwes and his colleagues now believe that the emergence of a strong economy means Indian society is ready to accept Western-style auctions with a full valuation and insurance service to back them up.

The new firm is based in Delhi, with a subsidiary office in Bombay, and others planned for Calcutta and possibly Bangalore. It will be known as Bowrings Fine Art Auctioneers.
“Patrick Bowring is the key man,” Elwes explained. “He has long experience in the Indian market, both from working with me at Bonhams as head of the Indian pictures department and with Sotheby’s before that. He organised Sotheby’s only sale in India back in 1991. Above all he already has a reputation in the country for his integrity and his name carries weight.”

The Bowrings board is chaired by the owner of the Oberoi chain of hotels which will serve as venues for the auctions. Managing director is Martin Graham who brings experience in Indian business and the firm is owned by a mix of Indian and European shareholders, including the executives of the company.
“I shall probably have a long-distance advisory role,” said Elwes, who is currently recruiting general valuers to work in the Sub-Continent.