GCAC former principal charged with forging Tagore paintings

In a case of forgery, the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) charged Deepali Bhattacharya, former principal of the Government College of Art & Craft (GCAC), with passing off fake paintings of the Nobel laureate poet as originals.

Deepali had overseen an exhibition of 25 paintings by Tagore, more than 20 of which were fakes, leading experts later found. The agency also similarly charged Dhanbad-based art dealer Jayanta Banerjee, who reportedly supplied Deepali with the fakes for an exhibition at the art college in February 2011. The GCAC is one of the oldest art colleges in Asia and produced some of leading artists from the subcontinent in more than 150 years of its existence.

According to the CID charge sheet, Deepali and Jayanta participated in a conspiracy to dupe art enthusiasts and even the government with imitations of Tagore paintings.
Submitted at a city court in the last week of September, the charge sheet will enable the CID to take custody of the two for further interrogation.

Investigating officials believe that the conspiracy involves a number of artists, art critics and galleries.

While the name of prominent Shantiniketan-based artist Jogen Chowdhury’s has already featured, after Deepali claimed one of the paintings came from the artist’s personal collection, the CID questioned him earlier this year.

The Nobel laureate, who acted as a cultural ambassador of the nation across the globe till his death in 1941, had painted around 3,000 pieces on handmade paper, of which about 500 are untraced. It is copies of these paintings that are passed around in the international fake-art market, given that all works by him are “national treasures” and cannot be taken out of India.

Matters came to a head after two former students of the GCAC moved the Calcutta High Court, seeking intervention and the filing of a police complaint against Deepali and Jayanta. Soon after this a probe was conducted.

The CID has brought charges under Sections 420 (cheating), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 469 (forgery) of the Indian Penal Code.

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