LONDON: Indian artist MF Husain’s painting of the Dancing Ganesh is the main attraction of an auction at a star-studded charity dinner on Tuesday night in the presence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Fittingly the octogenarian artist is one of the VIP guests who will enjoy an ‘organic Indian feast’ along with the royal couple at ‘An Elephant Durbar’ to raise money for the Elephant Family, a charity for the conservation of Asian elephants.
The Elephant Family is three year old charity which is shaking up current Asian elephant conservation practice bringing in increased accountability and transparency and making sure that the millions invested are well spent.
Mark Shands, an elephant enthusiast who has done a lot of work in India, is the brother of Prince Charles’ second wife Camilla, and is on the board of trustees of the Elephant Family, and one of the prime-movers behind the gala event. “We hope to raise at least a quarter of a million pounds at tonight’s dinner, and maybe more to provide a safer future for Asian elephants,” Ruth Powys, spokesperson for Elephant Family told DNA.
Sponsors for the gala event include Amit Bhatiya, son-in-law of Britain’s richest man, steel baron Lakshmi Mittal. Through the Amit and Vanisha Bhatiya Foundation, the Mittal’s have helped towards the costs of the event at Petersham House in Richmond in south London. Mittal, who has been in Luxembourg in connection with Mittal Steel’s take over of Arcelor on Sunday, is expected to attend the dinner.
The 340 strong guest list includes both British and Indian A-list celebrities. Model Kate Moss, comedy actor Stephen Fry and singer Dame Shirley Bassey will be rubbing shoulders with the Gayatri Devi, Rajmata of Jaipur, former-cricketer Imran Khan, curry king Sir Gulam Noon, and Jojar Dhinsa, an Indian entrepreneur who has also sponsored the event. The tickets for the event are priced at £1,000 per person and there is a long waiting list for last minute cancellations.
Sotheby’s auctioneer Henry Wyndham will conduct the auction in which Husain’s Dancing Ganesh is expected to fetch between £50,000 to £100,000. “MF Husain painted this piece specifically for the auction and it is the star prize,” said Powys.
Other items going under the hammer are an afternoon at the nets with Australian cricketer Shane Warne, a holiday in the estates of the late James Goldsmith, a family portrait taken by world-famous photographer Bruce Webber and a chance to own a baby elephant and its mother.
The Prince of Wales has donated a tour of his residence at Highgrove to the charity auction. The surprise donation has come from another board member of the Elephant Family — Lord Robin Russell. The British aristocrat who owns Woburn Safari Park has donated a year’s supply of elephant dung, apparently an ideal fertiliser for the garden.