Traces of Man-V

Traces of Man-V, Oil on canvas, 100 x 150in, 1998

We collect Indian art from the early Bengal period to the late 20th century, tracing the arc of India’s history—from the colonial period through the modern independent era. This gives our collection artistic and historic breadth. It contains not just paintings but also many drawings, which are a visual equivalent of poems—they capture the essence in just a few lines, and it is their purity that moves us.

We purchased our first paintings on impulse. These were an emotional response, reflecting our excitement at the vibrancy and energy of India’s culture. Since then, collecting India’s art has become an obsession. It has come to shape our lives.

Today our collection has over 700 works of Indian art. Far too many to display! The moment you run out of wall space and yet continue to acquire, is the time to admit that obsession has become addiction. The purchase that marked this shift was Rameshwar Broota’s triptych Traces of Man. It is an exceptional painting in terms of execution and universal vision. It is a black, brooding, abstract work created carefully and slowly by scraping away layers of paint with a razor blade.

The first time we stood in front of this great work, we immediately knew we couldn’t leave without it. The commitment of the artist to his vision had created one of his greatest works. Broota’s passion and originality radiated from every inch.

The joy of collecting is that it can give meaning to life. Each object has its personal story. As we go around our house, surrounded by these beautiful works, we do not see paintings, we hear stories. Each work tells us a bit about the creative vision of the artist.

Every day we sit in the company of some of India’s greatest figures: Gaitonde, Souza, Husain, Chittaprosad, Pyne, Broota, Raza and many more. Every day they whisper to us. They reveal the genius that is India. Surrounded by our collection we are wrapped in the energy of the finest souls of a great civilisation and that is a privilege beyond economic logic.

(Kito de Boer is Director, McKinsey & Company – Middle East )

Article republished from The Economic Times