Sotheby’s India managing director, Gaurav Bhatia, has proceeded on leave after a series of complaints against him regarding sexual harassment allegations on social media. A statement given by the auction house on Friday said that Bhatia had taken “leave of absence” pending a probe into the allegations. It stated, “In light of recent anonymous allegations that have surfaced on social media, Gaurav Bhatia has agreed to take a leave of absence while a formal inquiry continues.”
It also said, “Harassment of any type has no place at Sotheby’s and we will thoroughly investigate these allegations with Gaurav’s full cooperation.” According to the harassment complaints posted against him on Instagram, Bhatia touched the ‘victims’ inappropriately and tried to kiss them forcibly. Also, there was a case of Bhatia physically assaulting one of the victims in a hotel room in 2014. There have also been reports that two of the four complainants are male.
Bhatia, who has been with Sotheby’s since 2016, has worked with a luxury brand named LVMH for over a decade before joining the auction house. The allegations come at a crucial time for the company, which is conducting its maiden art auction next week. According to Sotheby’s website, Bhatia heads the South Asia operation and calls him the “driving force” behind the inaugural auction in Mumbai.
The company said in an announcement that its employees under Edward Gibbs administration, the chairman for West Asia and India, and Yamini Mehta. Who is the international head of Indian and South Asian Art, were ‘fully focused’ on the auction.
Bhatia, who is a well-known figure in South Mumbai’s social set, has also appointed a legal counsel, also, he has been maintaining a low profile since these allegations have surfaced. According to reports, he has been not attending several events, including the cocktail organized by the Mumbai Art Room on Monday night at socialite Roohi Jaikishan’s home. Both Bhatia and Roohi are trustees of the enterprise and he will also miss collector Kavita Singh’s dinner for fellow art collectors on 25th November just ahead of the auction.