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Book Review
‘Elite Collectors of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art’
A new publication encompassing ‘Elite Collectors of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art’ opens a window onto a wonderful world of passionate collectors. It introduces the readers to their eclectic and engaging collection. Just to give you an idea, here are some distinguished names:

• Pheroza Jamshyd Godrej might have become an artist herself but for parental opprobrium. She then turned to collecting art. She bought her first work for ‘a princely amount of Rs 200’.
• Basant Kumar Birla and his wife, Sarala started collecting precious paintings and objects d’art post-independence when foreigners sold their collections before leaving India.
• As a student Haresh Chaganlal’s exposure to art in the West prompted him to turn a collector with ‘a keen eye for good quality authentic creations. This ability helped him reveal and unveil many pictures in the most unlikely spots, including a Hemen Mazumdar and a Ravi Varma. He even discovered an Amrita Sher-Gil in a quaint, little Shimla bookshop.
• Shiv Nadar’s wife Kiran started collecting accidentally when she was fairly crackling with enthusiasm to decorate her house in the finest possible way. On her request, M. F. Husain created two works. That is how it all started.

As Indian contemporary art shines globally, ‘Elite Collectors of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art’ by authors Purrshottam Bhaggeria and Pavan Malhotra (Publishers: Elite Media; Price: Rs 15,000 for a limited edition of 2,000 numbered copies) has turned the spotlight on renowned collectors such as Parmeshwar Godrej, Suresh Neotia, Tina Ambani, Harsh Goenka, Rajshree Pathy, Sangeeta Jindal, Abhishek Poddar among others), some are less well known Rakesh Agarwal, Mahesh Chandra, Mahinder Tak, Ashwani Kakkar, Malvinder Mohan Singh, Prashant Tuslyan, Sanjay Lalbhai, Rajiv Jehangir Chaudhuri and Dinesh Thacker.

Then there are some international collectors like Masanori Fukuoka and the late Chester Herwitz who find a mention in this first comprehensive tome on art collectors. Barring a few notable exceptions like Anupam Poddar, Lekha Poddar, Nitin Bhayana, Priya Paul, and the de Boers, this attractive coffee table book reflects the passion of avid art collectors.

The editors of the publication have made a sincere and research based exercise to provide a glimpse into the rich collections of some of India’s top collectors, and their associations with the artists. For example, Haresh Chaganlal mentions of the time Ganesh Pyne’s wife Mira shelved his film making project on the artist, and also recalls the time spent with late Manjit Bawa whom he describes as ‘a fun guy’.

Parmeshwar Godrej regards M. F. Husain as a friend. An interesting anecdote about Husain is narrated by Ashwini Kakkar. On one of Mumbai’s hot, sultry afternoons, driving out of Matthew Road at Opera House he chanced upon the legendary artist walking barefoot (obviously so) on the sweltering black tar pavement. Though Mr Kakkar was headed in a different direction, he offered to drop Husain to Regal (Cinema), where he was going. “I was dropping him off when he ordered me to send him my new white Fiat car so that he could paint it for me. I totally chickened out,” the travel industry honcho reminisces and adds, “which is a decision I rue to this day.” Such interesting nuggets apart from a passionate peek into collections make for a fabulous combination.

Driven by their desire to chart a unique course, the authors have conceptualized and penned this captivating coffee table book. They take the readers along onto a fascinating journey into the exclusive world of discerning collectors and their eclectic collection. The book makes a honest attempt to highlight their definitive aesthetic vision, deep-rooted philanthropy, support and commitment to Indian art and artists.

‘Elite Collectors of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art’ is worth collecting for it showcases selected and favorite works of art of each collector, symbolizing their discerning eye and eclectic tastes.