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India’s top art collectors: The concluding part
“Only bad artists and clueless collectors should fear the consequences of the economic meltdown. For the rest of us, it's an ideal time to bring some rationality back to the art world. Less money means less genuflection to collectors, less subservience to donors and less demand-based product. And if less money can elicit a promise from the industry to look at the art object for what it really is, then this is truly the start of a new era…”

The above lines from a column by art writer Laura Cumming of The UK Observer aptly sum up the topsy-turvy experiences of market. The spirit and motivation of committed collectors also get encapsulated in them. Clearly, what stands them in good stead during the peaks and crests is unwavering passion for art. In fact, this is the one common thread that binds the top collectors, who remain in relentless pursuit of quality art irrespective of the market conditions.

In the first two parts, we’ve already focused on several prominent personalities to understand the philosophy underlining their proud possessions. The final part peeps into some more exquisite art collections that encapsulate India’s myriad creative expressions. One among them is Adi Godrej. His art-loving wife Parmeshwar has further kindled his interest in quality works. An ardent admirer of artist MF Husain, the business doyen has a collection of exquisite paintings. Love for art apparently runs in the family. For instance, Phiroza Godrej, the wife of Jamshyd Godrej (Adi Godrej's cousin), runs Cymroza Gallery in Mumbai.

Another renowned businessman Malvinder Singh has built a sizeable collection of modern & contemporary art. He has a penchant for photography acquired from his late father Parvinder Singh. This avid art collector has broadened his vision and love for art with Religare Arts Initiative that aims to bring creative expressions closer to the masses through understanding and appreciation. Kumar Mangalam Birla is also a known art aficionado. The business doyen believes that art is a matter of private choice. He is most emotional about his father, Aditya Birla's paintings – the 'reproductions' of various classics.

Tina Ambani’s captivating collection - not limited to a particular genre or a school - spans modern & contemporary Indian art. The works document a vast array of themes like history, culture and lifestyle with meticulous attention to detail and spellbinding intricacy. These are the works that have struck a deep chord with her at an emotional level and also relate to her personal journey. That’s exactly why (appreciating and collecting) art is an experience - a uniquely personal one, she reveals. While running Harmony Art Foundation, she has come to appreciate different forms of creativity and individual styles. She has stated: “I never set out consciously to become a ‘collector’ - it was a natural progression. I have always been fascinated by fine craftsmanship, intrigued by technique. For me, choosing a work of art has always been about an instant connection, an almost sensory experience.”

Art connoisseur Priyanka Gill was in spotlight when she acquired late Tyeb Mehta’s work from the ‘Mahisasura’ series at one of the Christie's auction sales for over Rs 5 crore. Among her other favorite artists are FN Souza, MF Husain, SH Raza, Subodh Gupta, and Sujata Bajaj. On the other hand, the divergent works compiled by Mr. and Mrs. Rajiv Jahangir highlight the fascinating dialogue and mediation between the traditional and modern, the indigenous and foreign, and the sacred and secular - as Indian artists sought an independent identity that could define their country’s new spirit. The collection was showcased at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Literally titled as ‘Jewel of India’, it comprised a selection of works by some of India’s most celebrated modern painters post-Independence.

Tasneem Mehta appreciates Nalini Malani’s work. Her collection is geared toward female artists. Revealing her mindset as a collector, she states, “Sometimes I feel the only reason I want to make more money is to be able to buy art.” For New Delhi based Shalini Gupta, collecting photographs was a natural progression from her love for art she developed while visiting galleries with her husband. She launched Tasveer in 2006. But while the collector only buys what she loves, she often subconsciously thinks about the scope for investment in what she buys. Talking of photography, The Alkazi Collection is a significant archive of 19th and early 20th century Colonial photographs. The archive contains over 90,000 photographic prints, documenting history from the perspective of both the rulers and the ruled, painstakingly built over a quarter of a decade by Ebrahim Alkazi.

Mention also must be made of names like Ashok Alexander, Suresh Neotia, Sangeeta Jindal, Abhishek Poddar, Rakesh Agarwal, Mahesh Chandra, Mahinder Tak, Ashwani Kakkar, Prashant Tuslyan and Sanjay Lalbhai, who all belong to the elite collectors’ category. And how can the essay on India’s top collectors be complete without mentioning the Tatas and the Birlas? B K Birla and Sarala Birla, a couple with a keen interest in art, compiled a collection over 50 years. The Birla Academy of Art & Culture has some of the priceless pieces, including rare stone carvings, bronzes, manuscripts and works by India’s top artists. What began as a collector's penchant and simple philanthropy has merged with the corporate culture of the entire Tata group. Sir Ratan had acquired a wide range of antiques and, along with his brother, Sir Dorab Tata, believed that museums were repositories of cultural heritage. The precious collection was endowed to the newly established Prince of Wales Museum. Jamshed Bhabha and his brother, Dr Homi built up the superbly defined collection of the TIFR.

The idea of this exclusive series was to fathom the mindset of some of India’s best-known collectors and the motivations behind their respective portfolios that encompass a wide range of genres, themes as well as styles and that explore creative expression, binding the past, present and future of Indian art.