India watches as Gandhi’s ‘eyes’ are auctioned

By | March 4, 2009

Mahatma Gandhi's glasses.Update: In the end of course the auctioneer’s hammer fell a long time after $300,000 had been reached.

“Sold, for $1.8m.”

The buyer was one of India’s richest men. The chairman of United Breweries, Vijay Mallya had been on the phone all along, talking to his representative Toni Bedi – a sharply dressed man in an immaculate white turban, sitting near the front. … – bbc

Seems like a happy ending for India.

AN AUCTION of Mahatma Gandhi s iconic round glasses branded an “insult” by the independence leader s family will go ahead later this week.

“The auction will happen on March 5 ” a spokeswoman for New York-based auctioneers Antiquorum said. The auctioneer Julien Schaerer said that despite an outcry in India over the sale of the glasses a watch a pair of sandals and a plate and bowl belonging to Gandhi no one had contacted him.

“We haven t had any direct interest from the Indian Government or from any Indian representative ” he said. “It s in their hands. If some of those wealthy people decide to buy it and give it as a gift to the country it can be done.” Antiquorum has refused to identify what it says is the private owner of the rare pieces on display in a glass case along with a white orchid. The auction house has put an estimate of $US20 000 $A31 422 to $US30 000 on the items which will sell as one lot.

Expectations are for a considerably higher price — partly thanks to the publicity from the row in India over the sale. Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi called the auction a “grave insult” and launched a public appeal for funds to buy the items. The Indian Government has also announced plans to try to repatriate them. “Whatever can be done is being done to ensure that articles are not auctioned by involving all concerned stakeholders ” Culture Minister Ambika Soni told the Press Trust of India news agency. Mr Schaerer Antiquorum s watches specialist said Gandhi s silver pocket watch made in about 1910 was “quite a modest” timepiece although significant for having an alarm. “He was very precise and very concerned about being on time about getting up for his morning prayers ” Mr Schaerer said. metal-rimmed glasses have also attracted particular attention because Gandhi is believed to have given them to an army officer in the 1930s describing them as the “eyes” that let him envision a free India. Mr Schaerer said that the row in India was only adding to interest. “Purely on the commercial side any publicity is good publicity if you want to see it like that.”

via India watches as Gandhi’s ‘eyes’ are auctioned |

On March 3, 2009 the owner was going to remove them from the auction:

James Otis, who owns the personal belongings of Mahatma Gandhi including the iconic round glasses being put on auction Thursday, said today he is prepared to reach a financial settlement with the Indian government and take the item off the auction block.
“But if the (Indian) government decides to allocate five per cent of the GDP to or announces some major scheme for the poor, I will even donate these items,†he added.

Stating that he is great admirer of Gandhi, Otis said he would donate most of the money he gets from auction to the “worthy†causes especially to help institutions and organizations working to propagate Gandhi’s message of non violence. – news4u

But it sounds like the auction will happen anyway.

I almost hate to point this out, as it is certainly quibbling, but … the glasses being auctioned (left, ovals) seem to be different glasses than the ones I’ve seen Gandhi wearing (right and below, circles) in pictures. Is it just the angle of the photograph that makes them seem to be ovals and that makes the nose bit seem thin compared to the REAL Gandhi glasses?

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