The French delegation on a five-day visit to the city to guide UT administrator on conservation and restoration of the iconic government office furnishings designed by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret has said it appears that only heritage furniture stolen a long time ago is periodically showing up in auction houses across the globe, where the pieces fetch millions.
In 2012, the Chandigarh Heritage Inventory Committee had listed 12,793 heritage items, which had been designed by the two architects. Built from locally sourced material such as teak, sheesham and cane, and cushioned with sturdy cotton fabrics, these furnishings have been smuggled to foreign lands since the 1990s. In 2011, the Union ministry of home affairs had banned the sale and export of Chandigarh’s heritage furniture.
Foundation Le Corbusier director Brigittee Bouvier said, “It is unfortunate that heritage furniture from Chandigarh is being smuggled and auctioned. It needs to be protected by all means. A proper inventory of each and every item needs to be kept as it is intellectual property. It does not appear that any items have been recently stolen.”
She suggested that experts from Panjab University, Chandigarh College of Architecture, cops and a legal team be constituted to ensure that the furniture was not stolen.
“There has been manyfold increase in the demand for heritage furniture. Though the administration has put most of the furniture to use, more museum displays should be set up with the furniture put in with proper numbering,” said Simon Jean-Christophe, Conservation Architect,Le Corbusier Foundation.
Delphine Ellie-Lefebvre, a restorer, who specialises in furniture and preventive conversation, says that a budget should be earmarked to repair the furniture. “The UT administration should raise awareness among the people about the furniture, and maintain a log so that no more items are stolen.”
Over the last three days, the six-member team has visited the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, Government College of Architecture, Sector 12, and Panjab University. It will submit its report to the French Embassy with suggestions and recommendations for conservation and restoration of city’s heritage items.
It will also help establish the authenticity of heritage items, tag them, and lay down guidelines and processes for its conservation, restoration, and legal protection.