Art collector and gallerist Amrita Jhaveri on her latest auction, and future of Indian art market

Though she was introduced to art by her parents at a young age, her love for it manifested much later in life. Meet Amrita Jhaveri, South Asian art expert and collector, who over the years have acquired works of a vast number of Indian contemporary artists. In addition to a two-decade collecting history, Jhaveri has authored a book on Indian art and was instrumental in bringing a sculpture show by British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor to India in 2010. She also runs a gallery in Mumbai, Jhaveri Contemporary, with her sister Priya.

We get to glimpse of that collection as she sets to auction 43 selected works of Indian contemporary artists in a Saffronart online auction titled ‘Amaya Collection’ to be held on 4 and 5 December, 2018.

One of the noted art patrons of the country, Jhaveri has always enjoyed visiting galleries showcasing artists of her own generation. Talking about her love for art she says, “Visiting galleries was part of my upbringing and while my father bought works of artists of his generation, I went on to acquire artists from mine. But it was in college that I became serious about art.”

By Atul Dodiya

Saurabh Society - 12 Noon, by Atul Dodiya. All images courtesy Saffronart

“My parents knew all the artists of their age and they used to frequent our house but I did not give much attention to the works at our place. It was while pursuing literature in my under graduation that I attended a guest lecture on art history, that’s when I truly fell in love with the subject,” she adds.

Jhaveri went on do her specialisation in South Asian Art, something she says she felt compelled to do. “It's my way of giving back to my culture. Also, when I studied the subject, I was really fascinated by the cultural history of our country.”

Jhaveri who headed Christie’s in India from 1995 until 2000, shares that it was her own idea to auction some of the works from her collection. She explains, “It was an easy decision to sell, but what was going into the sale was complicated. The auction is not a random collection of works by various artists. I have ensured that all 43 works have a connecting thread. I have curated the Amaya Collection in such a way that it is both eclectic and methodical, but at the same time it also reflects my very personal choice of artists and works that makes the collection singularly refined.”

The works she has selected for the Saffronart sale stands as a testament to the early and essential truths of each artist's respective visions. “The selection captures a particular moment in time from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s when there was a great sense of optimism in the art world. It was a time of easy camaraderie between artists, gallerists and collectors who socialised at openings and parties. Artists experienced growing interest from both local and international collectors and opportunities to travel and exhibit. This sale is a snapshot of those happy days,” she points out.

By Jaganath Panda

Untitled, by Jaganath Panda

Amongst the earliest works are a painting by Atul Dodiya and a sculpture by Dhruva Mistry. Dodiya’s Saurabh Society belongs to a series of paintings of small-town architecture and middle-class environments. The language is quite direct and the scene familiar. Dhruva’s Seated Man on the other hand, is remote, almost inaccessible. Some of the other works at the sale are sculptures by Subodh Gupta, Ravinder Reddy, LN Tallur to collage works of Jagannath Panda and Mithu Sen and photography by practices as diverse as those of Dayanita Singh and Tejal Shah.

Talking about her approach to art, Jhaveri shares, “I approach art visually before responding to it intellectually. An artwork must have visual impact and draw me in. When I visit exhibitions, I usually look at the work before reading the press release or any interpretation. Then I think about how I might live with it, where I can imagine it in my home. I also consider if it is an artist who I might wish to follow and how an individual work stands up to others within an exhibition. Finally, I consider if I can afford to acquire it.”

She continues, “I am also interested in how artists use diverse materials — wood, thread, lights, steel, wire, velvet, glass, gold leaf and feathers. I am interested in sculpture and installation on a domestic scale.”

The decision of auctioning these 43 works was not easy, but necessary, states Jhaveri. “The reasons are complex, but I would say that I somehow ended up having too many works in storage for long periods of time, as I now spend less time in India. I wanted to simplify my life and at the same time, share these works which I have loved and lived with over the years, with a new generation,” she says.

One of her first collected artwork is also on auction, Toxic Tales: Therapy by artist Girish Dahiwale. “The work is one of my favourites. It was showcased at Birla Academy of Art and Culture in Worli, Mumbai as part of a solo exhibition of nine large paintings by the artist. Among them was this 5' x 7' painting of the Indian 100 rupee note with Gandhi’s image replaced by a self-portrait, and a quote from Pearl Jam. I had never seen anything like it. The work was showcased to Century City, the opening exhibition at Tate Modern. The exhibition looked at nine cities, and Bombay (Mumbai) between 1992 and 2001, and this work was one of them.”

By Girish Dahiwala

Untitled, by Girish Dahiwala

Married to former Christie's MD Christopher Davidge, she had earlier auctioned a few of her works with Sotheby’s in 2013 with the same title. “I don’t want the collection to be named Amrita Jhaveri collection but at the same time, I want it to be something relatable. The name Amaya thus came. At the same time, both the auctions are very different from each other. With Sotheby, I presented a collection of Modern Indian artists but this auction is purely comprising of artists of my time,” she says.

When quizzed about the present state of the Indian art market, the art connoisseur says it is currently quite stable. "The demand has neither gone up or down, which according to me is a positive sign. Yet we are nowhere close to Chinese art and its demand.”

She signs off with a word of advice for the young buys. “One must visit galleries, interact with artists, gallerist and curator to know about the works. You might get all the information on the internet but nothing equals to looking at the work in person and making your choices.”

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Updated Date: Dec 02, 2018 10:08:22 IST

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