The hammer still goes down every Sunday at Russell Exchange Kolkata

” We don’t know much about the history associated with the items, owners brought them to us and we sell those through auction –  simple ”  says Mr. Salim , the co-owner of the only active auction house of Eastern India – Russell Exchange Kolkata , with tad repugnance but within a while he changed his sulk  and said ” well….. you’re free to take photographs of  these items and post it to your blog “.

The Sleeping Beauty - Victorian Artifact
The Sleeping Beauty – priced approximately at 40,000 INR

The Beginning

When the British started packing up and leaving India, they started selling off their goods. That’s how the auction house came into being. However, after a period of time, the auction houses started wrapping up. The two main auction houses after Mackenzie Lyall & Co. shut down and which survived were The Russell Exchange Kolkata and Chowringhee Sales Bureau Pvt. Ltd. Chowringhee too shut down leaving Russell Exchange the only breathing auction house of Kolkata.

Kids playing See-saw sculpture on black jade stone
Kids playing See-saw sculpture on black jade stone

The destruction of old bungalows and properties in Kolkata often has a direct influence on the exchange’s stock: While shopping malls and high-rises come up where the properties stood, the possessions of the demolished houses are up for auction. “It is true,” admits Mr. Salim. “But by auctioning, we give these objects a new life with a new owner. This is also a recycling business.

Old English Porcelain Tray priced at approximately 17,000 INR for a pair
Old English Porcelain Tray priced at approximately 17,000 INR for a pair
Half Bust Angel - 60,000 INR
Half Bust Angel – 60,000 INR

Walk in through the mammoth doors of The Russell Exchange Kolkata and it seems like one might be walking into another world, furniture of all shapes and sizes cover the milieu while chandeliers and other incandescence hang from the high ceilings. As you step further into the Exchange, one can smell old books lined up at odd angles and other musty aromas with an old world charm to them.

Exquisite Chisel work on a regal "Baboo" Bed
Exquisite Chisel work on a regal “Baboo” Bed

Before we end…

With changing times, the trends change. Russell Exchange Kolkata has also started renting out their artefacts for television production and other places as props. It is just a new direction that they have undertaken as well. The Russell Exchange managed to stay afloat. Its neighboring auctioneers, like the Mohan Exchange and Suman Exchange, survived too, but only The Russell Exchange conducts regular weekly auctions—a garments auction on Thursdays and a general auction on Sunday mornings.

The Exchange does not buy any of the things that are displayed in the house. Sellers interested in selling their goods bring articles to the house. They value them and help them in setting up and initial bidding price. Once the good is sold, the house charges 20 per cent of the proceeds for their services.

Kolkata, the City of Joy has been enchanting me, since childhood, of her glorified past and also the time at present.This blog is made with the intention to give you a brief and photographic detail of the famous spots of Kolkata with a pinch of little-known history behind it.