Sunday, June 9, 2013

Spotlight on an influential Indian art collector

Anupam Poddar, is arguably one of the most important contemporary art collectors in India at present. The Mint writer Shoba Narayan, after visiting his home, tried to grasp what his thought processes are. As she asked in her column then: “Is he a market maker, a hard-nosed businessman, or just a romantic. What’s his fundamental impulse?”

She asked the collector if he feels there is some manipulation that goes on in the art market, where a small group of highly influential collectors can purchase a work and then bid it up at auctions so that the value of their own collections goes up. “Absolutely,” he answered back. “But it is the same all over the world (and not in India alone). A lot of it has perhaps to do with perception—whether it is created; whether it is false; whether it’s built up, just like a brand. Art is not regulated; and pricing is ambiguous,” he added.

He enjoys a real connect with works and the artists he collects, as he tells several stories about them: why Anita Dube used human bones, for example. Even though the columnist posed the same question to him in many different ways, he emphasized the fact that art was not an ‘investment’ for him. He asserted: “Nothing here is easily collectible.”

Poddar to his credit has fast expanded his horizons. Bewildering burqa art dots his guest bedroom; works by Sarah Rahbar, an Iranian artist; and Kirti Arora’s photo of female soldiers. There are Sreshta Premnath’s small works, plus those by Baptist Coelho, Ayaz Jokhio, and Zarina Hashmi all of which, he envisions, will end up in a vast Asian art collection he is steadily accumulating. He has spent the last whole decade and a half of his life being broke, as he revealed, since he has spent all his money on art, he statees.

Anupam Poddar collects works of art not solely to multiply his wealth, though it’s a collateral benefit. It’s more of ‘a springboard to the eternal’. In that sense, he is an Asian Saatchi, the writer concludes. Here is a clue to what Poddar might do in the future. Just more than a year ago, Charles Saatchi decided to donate much of his art collection to the British public.

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