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Masanori Fukuoka's artistic mission

"Perhaps due to the diversity and depth of Indian culture, people carry many different images of India. Contemporary art can act as a common language to reveal the India beyond the images and to lead us to a greater understanding within,' Masanori Fukuoka, an avid collector of Indian art, explaining his fascination, and goes on to state. 'For there is something that transcends the diversity of images, a spirit that is contemporary and a presence that is universal, even in its Indianness, above all there is a sense of creative adventure that reaches out to something beyond the image, through the image, be it figurative or abstract. This, I feel, is what captivated me - the glimpse of a window in the image, opening to a space beyond."

Fukuoka's comment about Indian art transcends the diversity of images to make a universal statement. He had major shows of Indian art, for example a traveling exhibition titled 'Image Beyond Image' in New Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mumbai, in 1997. In fact, he visits India to strengthen his bond with Indian art and artists such as Akbar Padamsee, Jogen Chowdhury, Krishen Khanna, Nasreen Mohamedi, R.K. Dhawan, Arpita Singh, J Swaminathan, M.F. Husain, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Ved Nayar, V.S. Gaitonde, Laxma Goud, Ganesh Pyne, Prabhakar Barwe, and Manjit Bawa. Recently, he was on a trip to India, to fine-tune the preparations for a group show of 10 artists with 10 works from each in India.

Fukuoka has had a personal rapport with most of the artists in his portfolio. Masanori Fukuoka, a few months ago, has published a classy book on painter Jogen Chowdhury, who is among his favorite artists. The artist and publisher have been friends for decades, not just because Fukuoka has over 400 of Jogen Chowdhury's paintings and drawings for his famed contemporary Indian art collection in Japan. It's an elegant, in-depth compilation of paintings and drawings of the artist and his musings on art published by Fukuoka. Jogen Chowdhury's book, titled 'Enigmatic Visions', was the outcome of a 'promise' that Fukuoka had made to the artist six-seven years ago.

Fukuoka intends to launch a series of books on Indian art like a comprehensive publication on 62 contemporary artists of India. The first book on contemporary Indian art incorporated around 160 works, whereas the former has around 125 paintings by Jogen Chowdhury on print. Both the books showcase works from Fukuoka's massive Indian art collections preserved at his Glenbarra Museum located in Himeji, near Osaka.

It was almost 15 years ago, in 1990 that he bought paintings of Indian artists for the first time, and has come a long way since then. Fukuoka, whose food processing business focuses greatly on smoked salmon exports, used to come to India as a tourist. As he has stated in an interview, he did it all on his instinct, like his venture into India'without a guidebook. Of course, he is no stranger to India. He first came to India when he was just 22, and was studying at the University of Tokyo.

In the nineties he was drawn to Indian art, and soon started acquiring Indian art. As he started interacting with artists and galleries, he applied his own judgement, while collecting works of contemporary painters. He even acquired Tyeb Mehta's triptych 'Celebrations', at a New York auction in 2002 for Rs 1.5 crore. It was the best record for Indian contemporary artwork at that point. Just months later, another record price of $1 million was achieved by 22 small and medium paintings by M.F. Husain. The record price was reached at a private sale of these Husain paintings, part of the Paris Suite unveiled to mark the maestro's 88th birthday. Though, the price for the Paris Suite overwhelmed the earlier record price fetched by Tyeb Mehta's triptych 'Celebration', the latter helped set the tone for it.

Undoubtedly, collectors such as Masanori Fukuoka have ensured that Indian contemporary art emerges as the fastest growing category in Asian art. It has triggered the increased awareness of contemporary Indian art artists. Over the last few years more and more galleries around the world have started displaying contemporary Indian art. Collectors like him signify the fact that contemporary Indian art is increasingly painting itself in global hues, while its rising demand is fetching record prices for sellers.

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