Auctioneering work was a thriving business in the city of Calcutta in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, but over time, almost all of the city’s auction houses closed.
In the mid-20th century, various auction houses in Kolkata used to be crowded with the rich and famous, actors, businessmen and ambassadors from India.
But with Delhi becoming the capital of India, Kolkata’s economy came to a standstill and almost all auction houses closed except for one, the Russell Exchange.
Russell Exchange was bought by a Kolkata family from the British in 1940 and has been operating in the Park Street area of Kolkata ever since.
In its heyday, this auction house competed with other big auction houses in the world like Sotheby’s and its clients came here from Delhi-Mumbai.
Many rare items are still found here, from motorcycle helmets to crystal chandeliers, broken Miley Cyrus CDs, and a bed made from teak found in Burma.
In ancient times, these items were often found in the homes of foreign ambassadors and the Bengali elite. But now most of these items are brought from Bengali homes where there is no place to store them.
,The Russell Exchange was bought by a Kolkata family from the British in 1940 and has operated in the fashionable Park Street area of Kolkata ever since.,
Two hard-working and charismatic brothers run the Russell Exchange House auction house.
You’ve handled this job together after your father’s death.
Although the backgrounds of both brothers are completely different from each other. Of these, the eldest brother, Anwar Salim, lived abroad until now, but now he wants to restore the lost prestige of his father’s legacy.
Salim has worked abroad with real estate, internet retailers and veteran traders. He feels that his experience from investment banking to running an Indian restaurant will help him in this business.
In contrast, his younger brother, Arshad Salim, is completely painted in the colors of Kolkata. He has been running his father’s business since he was 18 and says he can sell everything from a needle to an airplane.
According to Arshad, the reason for the closure of another 20 auction houses in Kolkata is the decline of Kolkata as a city.
Arshad isn’t even sure the next generation would like to do this job.
Both brothers are constantly adopting new methods to re-establish the Russell Exchange.
He has given a part of his building to sell some antiques at a fixed price.
Not only this, he also organized a fashion show for some local fashion designers in which some well-known models displayed his store’s products.
He plans to host music nights at his venue in the future.
However, the difference between the joy that occurs during these shows and the atmosphere of a normal lazy afternoon is clearly visible here.
But the truth is that the Russell Exchange will always be an auction house first and everything else second. Especially for those who work here who have been working here for two or three generations.
These are the people who represent our changing city.
Buyers who come here include hoarders, middlemen, and the elderly.
,According to Arshad, the reason for the closure of another 20 Calcutta auction houses is the decline of Kolkata as a city.,
For some, the deal here is a forgotten story and for others it is a sign of a new adventure.
In many ways, this auction house reflects the past, present and future of the city of Kolkata. A city once known for its cultural vibe and prosperity is trying to find its identity in today’s environment.
Only time will tell how successful this effort by both brothers to boost their business will be.
This is because all of this is happening when the winds of change are blowing everywhere. This auction house is a symbol of fading greatness.
Even in these difficult times, this auction house is managing to attract attention from the world of contemporary fashion and music.