Gaurav Bhatia, the managing director of Sotheby’s India, has agreed to take leave of absence as a formal inquiry is underway into anonymous allegations on social media, Sotheby’s said in a statement.

Sotheby's Sends India Head On Leave Pending Probe Into #Metoo Claims

Gaurav Bhatia did not respond to an email seeking comment.

MUMBAI: Days before its much-anticipated inaugural sale in Mumbai, London-based auction house Sotheby’s has confirmed that Gaurav Bhatia, its managing director for India, has agreed to take a leave of absence pending an inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct made against him on social media.

The auction — titled Boundless: India and set to be held at The Taj Mahal Palace on November 29 — will now be supervised by Edward Gibbs, chairman for Middle East and India, and Yamini Mehta, international head of modern and contemporary South Asian art.

The anonymous complaints were made on the Instagram account Scene and Herd (@herdsceneand), which has been tracking the #metoo movement in the Indian art world.

Four people, men and women, have alleged harassment and assault — from forceful kissing and inappropriate touching to physical assault in a hotel room in 2014.

A statement issued by Sotheby’s stated that, “Harassment of any type has no place at Sotheby’s and we will thoroughly investigate these allegations with Gaurav’s full cooperation.”

Mumbai Art Room, a non-profit curatorial lab and gallery in Colaba, has Bhatia on its board of trustees and also issued a statement on its social media pages on Friday. It said, “Mumbai Art Room’s programming has addressed the need for education and awareness and open discussion to counter environments of harassment. We are aware of the anonymous allegations… [Bhatia] has voluntarily decided to step aside from the board until the investigation process is complete.”

Bhatia, who has been with Sotheby’s since 2016, began his career as an advertising executive in New York. Before this stint, he headed marketing for Moet Hennessy India, part of the LVMH group, for over a decade.

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

Mr Bhatia did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Sotheby’s did not say who would conduct the probe into the allegations against Bhatia. It plans to go ahead with its inaugural auction scheduled in Mumbai on November 29.

The #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment, which began in the United States’ entertainment industry, gained traction in India earlier this year after Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta accused a co-actor of sexually harassing her on a movie set a decade ago.

The movement has since spread with prominent journalists, film personalities, and executives being named.

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