Naheed Carrimjee grew up surrounded by European art, with paintings and sculptures scattered about her family’s Breach Candy home. There are only a handful of them on display today.
Instead, the visual centrepiece of her elegant drawing room is a large Uppada textile art work from Hyderabad that she bought at an art and craft exhibition in Mumbai 10 years ago.
“It was a gift for my late mother, and the only one from my collection that she liked,” says the 45-year-old solicitor and notary, smiling.
Carrimjee currently owns more than 150 pieces of folk and tribal Indian art, including a number of Mata Ni Pachedi folk art pieces from Gujarat, Madhubani paintings from Bihar and Gond paintings from Madhya Pradesh.
It’s a collection built up over 15 years, but 70% of these works — ranging in cost from R30 to R1 lakh — have been acquired over the past three years. “That’s when I started making enough money to buy art,” she says.
Carrimjee, who spent four years in the US and UK studying economics and art history, is typical of a new breed of collectors who are choosing indigenous Indian art over contemporary Indian or European works — despite the fact that indigenous art appreciates very slowly in value over time.
“Youngsters are now travelling extensively. Seeing how indigenous arts and crafts are appreciated around the world, they are encouraged to do the same,” says Shilpa Shah, a businesswoman and collector who, with her husband Praful, created the Tapi (Textiles & Art of the People of India) collection in the 1970s, now regarded as one of the richest collections of textile art in the country. “Earlier, people didn’t have the opportunity or means to travel and so prized all things foreign by default.”
A high-profile launch on Thursday for Kashmir Shawls, a book on this segment of the Tapi collection, was one of three events showcasing indigenous art in the city over just two weeks, indicating an increased interest in these forms.
The second was a Pichwai exhibition that featured a concert by classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj. And the third will be the Paramparik Karigar exhibition on December 15, the fourth PK show to be held in Mumbai this year.
PK, an NGO that works to promote Indian arts and crafts, has been holding exhibitions in Mumbai for 15 years and raised the number of shows three years ago, from two a year to four.
“Over the past three years we have seen a 20% to 30% increase in footfalls and sales every year,” says Anu Chowdhury-Sorabjee, a member of the PK organising committee.
Many of Carrimjee’s pieces, in fact, were brought at Paramparik Karigar exhibitions in Mumbai. “These works give me a strong sense of belonging and heritage,” she says. “It also feels good to help our traditional artists and craftsmen.”
Trending: traditional art
Praphul Sudarshan, 48, case coordinator with NGO Umeed; Mahalaxmi resident
Praphul has been collecting indigenous art for five years. “My mother, Chandraprabha Joglekar, was a Marathi novelist. I grew up reading Marathi literature and so I relate to our traditional art forms and their arresting stories,” she says. Praphul usually buys at Paramparik Karigar exhibitions.
Owns: One Gond, one Pattachitra and two Tanjore paintings
Price range: Rs. 500 to Rs. 1 lakh
Favourite work: A Gond painting by Venkat Raman Singh Shyam that portrays a tribal goddess with powerful, arresting eyes (right)
“I am moved by traditional arts as they are so beautiful and profound. I love everything about them — the riot of colours and the stories they tell.”
Sumesh Sharma, 30, Art curator, Churchgate resident
Sharma has been collecting indigenous art for three years and says he loves it as much as high art. He buys from dealers, collectors and artists across India.
Owns: 300 Madhubani paintings and 19 Patna Kalam paintings from Bihar. The latter is a rare, almost dead art form.
Price range: Rs. 30 to Rs. 35,000
Favourite work: An intricate, 18th-century Patna Kalam painting that shows Hindus and Muslims celebrating Muharram together
“These works are our national heritage. I will never sell them. I would like to eventually hand them over to a museum to be treasured.”
Kunal Shah, 31, Architect and design consultant
Bandra resident shah has been collecting indigenous art for 10 years and now encourages his clients to decorate their homes with such pieces.
“I am successful in about 50% of the cases,” he says, smiling. Travelling extensively within India, Shah visits artisans’ villages regularly and commissions work for himself and his clients.
Owns: 25 pieces, ranging from Bidri boxes featuring intricate metal work to art-on-textile forms such as Pichwai and Mata Ni Pachedi. Also collects contemporary art. Bought most of his works over the past five years, as his earnings grew.
Price Range: Rs. 80 to Rs.10 lakh.
Favourite work: A Mata Ni Pachedi that he watched artists create in Ahmedabad 10 years ago. “They explained the meaning and significance of every motif as they worked,” he says.
“People are buying folk art worth even Rs. 10 lakh because, in the long run, as awareness grows and these works become rarer, their value will appreciate many times over. Besides, I would rather buy exceptional folk and tribal art than fork out more for overpriced, mediocre contemporary art."