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Dec 05 2018

Head Of Sotheby’s India Gaurav Bhatia Takes Leave Of Absence After #MeToo Allegations

by Julee WJ Chung

Sotheby’s India’s managing director Gaurav Bhatia has taken a leave of absence since anonymous allegations of sexual harassment were published on social media. Portrait of Gaurav Bhatia via Sotheby’s Twitter.

On November 22, auction house Sotheby’s India issued a statement that its managing director Gaurav Bhatia would take a leave of absence pending a formal inquiry into anonymous allegations of sexual harassment that had surfaced on social media. Between November 13 and 22, four sources shared accounts of Bhatia’s sexual misconduct on the anonymous Instagram account Scene and Herd (@herdsceneand). 

One alleged victim who identified himself as male reported that during a professional event in 2014, he had been physically assaulted by Bhatia, who was a “top boss at a luxury firm” at the time. A subsequent account from a former intern, also at “a luxury firm,” accused Bhatia of groping and attempting to “corner” the victim, stating: “It was common knowledge in the firm that Gaurav had a tendency to touch guys inappropriately when under the influence of alcohol.” Before joining Sotheby’s in 2016, Bhatia had headed the marketing department of luxury brand LVMH’s India branch. Aishwarya Subramanyam (@otherwarya), an editor at Elle India, corroborated the first story on Instagram, claiming that a person she knew had been present at the event and witnessed the victim looking “all shaken up.”

“Harassment of any type has no place at Sotheby’s and we will thoroughly investigate these allegations with Gaurav’s full cooperation,” the auction house stated.

Scene and Herd, which has been publishing anonymous posts on verbal and physical sexual harrassment in the Indian art world since early October, is part of a larger wave of #MeToo allegations that have rocked the country. Dozens of men and women have called out systemic abuse, sexual misconduct and assault, naming a number of powerful Indian men in the the art, media, sports, entertainment and non-profit industries, including photographer Shahid Datawala, sculptor Jatin Das, and artist Riyas Komu. While some alleged perpetrators were forced to step down from positions in their respective organizations, others have yet to face official repercussions.

Sotheby’s announcement came less than a week before the auction house’s first sale in Mumbai, “Boundless: India,” which took place on November 29 at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel under the supervision of Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s chairman of the Middle East and India, and Yamini Mehta, the international head of Indian and South Asian Art.

Julee WJ Chung is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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