Online Magazine
Cover Story
A spotlight on India’s top collectors - II
In the first part of our series on prominent collectors from India, we have made an effort to fathom their fascination for art and also to understand the varied influences and inspirations behind their proud possessions. The second part focuses on a few more significant names in this respect.

A first-generation entrepreneur, Rajiv Savara along with his wife Roohi, has compiled a museum-worthy selection of works from the late-19th and mid-20th centuries onward. The Roohi & Rajiv Savara Family Collection, as it is known, is appreciated for its focus on artists who the collector couple believes will, ‘five decades hence, define pre-Modern and Modern art of India’.

The comprehensive collection is an outcome of their insight, erudition, and instinct to collect the finest of paintings. It comprises historically significant and rare artworks, including a large private portfolio of exquisite Raja Ravi Varma paintings and the Tagore family (Rabindranath, Gaganendranath and Abanindranath) works. The Savaras’ admiration for artists like VS Gaitonde, FN Souza, SH Raza, Ram Kumar and Akbar Padamsee reflects in their selective acquisitions. Applauding their effort, a curator of Indian & Himalayan art at the Philadelphia Museum, Dr. Darielle Mason, has stated: “The collection tells the story of Indian Modernism on a level not yet presented, and is able to communicate the originality and vitality of it to a global audience because of the quality of each work.”

Starting with Japanese Meiji Art, the Savaras gradually turned their attention to Pre-Modern & Modern Indian Art, focusing on a narrative of Indian Modernism. And this is how it all happened…while shopping for furniture in Delhi in 1999, the art-loving couple happened to meet Amol Vadhera from whom they bought two works by MF Husain. This is how the seeds of one of the most fabulous collections of Indian art were sown. Their approach since then has been driven by a belief that works of select great artists suffice to reflect the Modern Indian culture in its entirety.

The duo seeks inspiration from art patrons in the west like Duncan Phillips and Samuel Guggenheim. Elaborating on his philosophy, Mr. Savara has said: “Private enterprise created some incredible institutions in America. That is what required here too!” His belief that the collection actually belongs to the people of India encapsulates his vision as a collector.

Another celebrity couple that cherishes a classy art collection is Parvez and Roshni Damania. It comprises superb paintings by MF Husain, Satish Gujral and Bose Krishnamachari, among others. Their passionate portfolio boasts of artists, such as FN Souza, Ram Kumar, Paritosh Sen, Sakti Burman, Jogen Choudhury etc. Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali are the two international artists whose works they have acquired.

The emphasis is invariably on acquiring unusual works like a rare painting by Ram Kumar and a FN Souza landscape. The underlying thought is to buy only those works that are pleasing to the eye and intellect and those they would want to grow with over time. While Parvez Damania makes most purchase decisions, the responsibility of their maintenance lies with Roshni. According to her, the focus now has shifted slightly to acquiring works of upcoming and talented artists. “Every art collector, I guess, happens to pass through different phases. Parvez is probably beyond the phase when he was keen to acquire top names,” she has stated, suggesting they are keen to promote the younger artists.

One more name that comes to mind while discussing India’s famous collectors is Rajshree Pathy. Belonging to one of India’s leading industrial and philanthropist families, the PSG group, she has simultaneously cultivated her love for art. Running a sugar company successfully and having worked as the president of the Indian Sugar Mills Association, her passion lies elsewhere. It was at the age of 17 that she acquired her first artwork – a painting by MF Husain for Rs 18,000. It took two years to repay the loan. She hasn’t looked back since then…Her comprehensive collection has in its fold works by renowned artists like SH Raza, Rameshwar Broota, FN Souza, and Chintan Upadhyay.

Summing up her journey, she has stated: “Art is not something that I have to keep under lock & key. It’s rewarding intellectually, emotionally and financially.” And what prompts her to buy? ”It’s something that talks to my heart. Of course, it’s good knowing that a choice I made has gone up in value.” Though Rajshree Pathy is averse to selling any of her pieces, she underlines its importance as an investment-worthy asset. According to her, the price of good art will never fall, and investing one-fourth of one’s income makes sense. Her desire is to set up a private museum that displays works of India’s most renowned artists. Once her vision fructifies, the institute will run under-graduate, post-graduate, and also short certificate courses for different media and forms, including visual art, audio, video and digital art.

These distinguished collectors have greatly contributed to the development of artistic environment in modern India through their individual efforts. But the elite list does not end here, so keep watching for this space…