Chandigarh’s architect’s artefacts fetch millions abroad

Chandigarh, Oct 6 (IANS) Artefacts associated with Chandigarh’s founder-architect Le Corbusier – either disposed off as “junk” by local authorities or sold off cheaply or stolen from here – have found their way to auction houses in the West and fetching millions of rupees.

Artefacts sold off at auctions in London, New York, Paris and other places include chairs, tables and designs of the French architect of Swiss origin.

Most of Chandigarh – which is observing the 50th death anniversary of Le Corbusier (1887-1965) – was designed by him and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret in the 1950s and 60s when the city was being built.

Many of these artefacts are said to have been disposed off as “junk” by government departments and institutions such as the Panjab University here.

An iron manhole cover carrying the master-plan design of Chandigarh city by Le Corbusier was sold as junk for a paltry Rs.100 by authorities here. It was later sold at a New York auction in 2007 for a whopping $21,000 by leading auctioneer Christie’s.

The Chandigarh administration is grappling with the problem of the city’s heritage continuing to make its way out of the country and being sold at leading auction houses such as Christie’s, Artcurial, Wright (Chicago) and others.

Lawyer Ajay Jagga, through his organization ‘Initiative for Law and Justice’, has written to the Chandigarh administration that this matter should be probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

“It has been happening since 2007. Now again, on October 1, 2015, an auction house (in Britain) organised an auction of more than 10 items from Chandigarh, designed by Pierre Jeanneret, which were sold for 97,500 pounds, equal to Rs.96.95 lakh,” Jagga said.

To make matters worse, two tables and eight V-shaped cane and cushion chairs designed by Corbusier and his team were stolen from the ‘Le Corbusier Centre’ in Chandigarh’s Sector 19 about a fortnight ago.

The Chandigarh Police finally registered a case into the theft of these heritage items after a gap of nine days.

The Chandigarh administration had written to Nicolas Orlowski, director of a selling house, on February 16, 2010, regarding auction of Le Corbusier’s sketches in Paris, Jagga said.

But what happened later is not known.

The letter makes it clearl that the loss of heritage was known to the administration but nothing concrete has been done so far, Jagga added.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at

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