Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One of India's richest and most diverse art collections

Jehangir Nicholson’s collection is one among the richest and most diverse in its vastness of masterpieces and contemporary artworks. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly called the Prince of Wales Museum) now houses the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery.

A major portion of its recently constructed 2nd floor annexe is now taken up by the captivating collection, a visual treat, a true testament to the zest and passion of an avid lover of modern Indian art. He traveled all across India to buy art, cutting across different forms, themes and mediums. He progressively became more meticulous and methodological about his quest of collecting; getting more and more conscious of the fact that he was pursuing his dream of a museum, wanting to leave behind a rich legacy.

His understanding and sense of contemporary art were enhanced from his keen debates and conversations with art practitioners, gallery owners, scholars, critics and reviewers. Here are some important milestones of this passionate art collector, as elaborated on the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation Website:

•    A trained chartered accountant and the last heir of a cotton gin and press, Breul and Co. (estb.1863), Jehangir Nicholson (1915-2001) was more passionate about photography and car racing than cotton trade. That was until he discovered the world of paintings.

•    Nicholson bought his first painting in 1968, after his wife died. An early patron of modern art in India, he also ventured into the contemporary building on his collection until 2001. As early as 1976, Nicholson founded a museum gallery for his collection at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA).

•    Twenty years later, when the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) opened, he was on the advisory board. In 1998, he curated his collection for an exhibition titled ‘Collector's Eye’ with the then director, Saryu Doshi. Through his will, he entrusted the care of his collection to his godson Cyrus Guzder and his lawyer Kaiwan Kalyaniwalla, with the wish that they be placed in the public realm.

His constant rearrangement of his treasured collection pointed to a sort of obsessive streak when it came to art in him. All these traits are evident in the exhibition of his vast and rich artworks in Mumbai.

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