Total recall

Updated: Jun 12, 2019, 18:14 IST | Snigdha Hasan

From an LP signed by Pink Floyd to jersey No 10 with Pele's autograph, an upcoming auction features prized memorabilia, but falls short of wowing collectors with Indian lots. Auctioneers tell us why sourcing collectibles here is a tough nut to cra

Total recall
original signatures by Race 2 cast on the official film poster

How do you know that a memory is being made while it’s being made? And how do you preserve it for posterity in a way that goes beyond a photo album or more currently, a selfie? Perhaps by engaging those involved in a more tangible way, or by preserving something from the goings-on of the day that will instantly remind you of it even 30 years later. Memorabilia are made of these, and worldwide, care is taken — not just by individual collectors but by sporting event organisers, music labels and film industries — to ensure there are enough physical reminders of historic moments for public viewing, and for individual collections.

Hollywood memorabilia
The Hollywood memorabilia in the auction include original signatures by Leonard Simon Nimoy and William Shatner on a photograph with the actors in their respective character’s costume as Spock and Captain Kirk

Memorabilia, an upcoming online auction by AstaGuru, comprises 100 such lots from the world of music, sports, films and television and political history from across the globe, which will go under the hammer on June 20 and 21. Until then, fans can view LP records signed by Elvis Presley and Guns N’ Roses, jerseys autographed by Pelé and Cristiano Ronaldo, film stills signed by Leonard Nimoy and Clint Eastwood, and original signature specimens of Abraham Lincoln and J Edgar Hoover at the auction house’s gallery in Kala Ghoda.

Muhammad Ali on a leather boxing boot
Original signature by Muhammad Ali on a leather boxing boot and three photographs in a collage format; original signatures by Freddie Mercury, lead vocalist and pianist; Brian May, lead guitarist and vocals; Roger Taylor, drums and vocals

While this is quite a range for history enthusiasts, barring an original signature by Mahatma Gandhi on cut paper dated August 23, 1945, when he happened to be in Bombay, the Indian lots in the collection pale in comparison to their international counterparts. Flipping through the catalogue, one of the first things that becomes clear is a lack of desi vintage appeal. A signed bat by participating teams in the Natwest series in 2002 is as far back as the Indian sporting memorabilia go, while posters and clapperboards signed by the cast of Race 1, 2 and 3 are the only Indian representatives in the film and television category.

John Deacon, bass guitarist on the cover of their album Queen - The Works (1984) and two photographs in a collage format
John Deacon, bass guitarist on the cover of their album Queen - The Works (1984) and two photographs in a collage format

When we speak to Siddanth Shetty, the auction house’s vice president, strategy, he points towards a problem that conservationists in the country have been battling in their respective fields. “[Archiving] has never been something that we have taken seriously. That there is an entire market for collectibles out there is something that the Bollywood and sports fraternities are warming up to only now,” he says.

Referring to the next challenge, Shetty explains the process of curating an auction, where the in-house experts first determine what’s in trend (no wonder that with the release of Bohemian Rhapsody, there is an LP signed by Queen) and travel to relevant locations to see what’s actually available. Next comes the task of determining the authenticity of a collectible’s provenance. “The international market is set, and so you have institutes with forensic experts and other professionals that give international accreditation. So, in India, we have to practise restraint [because there are fewer avenues for determining authenticity],” he says.

Original signature by Michael Jackson on a Starcaster Electric Guitar
Original signature by Michael Jackson on a Starcaster Electric Guitar

That brings us to the individual collector. After all, there are many history enthusiasts in India who have kept 50-year-old lobby cards and posters in safe custody. Is an alliance between them and auction houses not feasible? “‘Does such a concept even exist?’ is what we are asked first. Individuals see memorabilia from an emotional point of view, and for them, these items are priceless,” Shetty adds. A fair point, and perhaps engaging with them as custodians of history is the way forward. Until then, the hope is to see Indian collectibles travel a little further back in time to include objects from classics like The Apu Trilogy and Sujata.

Till: June 21, 11.30 am to 7 pm
At: Institute of Contemporary Indian Art, Rampart Row, Kala Ghoda.
Call: 22048138

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