The collection of late Jehangir Nicholson on view

The new gallery promoted by The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum (formerly known as Prince of Wales Museum) hosts an inaugural exhibition of most precious and important works of art and sculpture from the Jehangir Nicholson Collection, curated by Dadiba Pundole.

The newly created state-of-the-art Museum Gallery designed by interior designer and architect Pinakin Patel, will reduce the waiting period considerably for artists who wish to display their work at a prime spot in Mumbai. It offers all facilities for modern and contemporary art viewing within its 3,000 sq ft precincts at Kala Ghoda. Executors of Nicholson's Estate were approached by the Museum and the Kala Ghoda Festival Committee to showcase the collection for the Museum Gallery's inaugural show as well as the Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2004.

The museum apart from being a heritage institution of traditional arts and crafts also wants to showcase contemporary and modern work of art. In choosing to celebrate the opening of The Museum Gallery with an exhibition titled 'The Bombay Connection - works of art and sculpture from the late Jehangir Nicholson's Collection' the organizers in a way have honored a selfless patron of Indian contemporary art.

The late art collector's name is synonymous with contemporary Indian art. Spanning about five decades of works of art, his enormous and meticulously built up collection of paintings and sculptures remains one of the most comprehensive collections of contemporary Indian art in the country. It serves as an important record of the evolution and progress of contemporary Indian art and artists, over the years. Almost all his favorite artists have been represented in the show. The strength of the collection is a cluster of paintings by the Bombay Progressive Artists Group and other artists from 1948 to 1998 who have left their mark on the Indian art scene. There are works by Prabhakar Kolte, Jehangir Sabavala, Badri Narayan, N. S. Bendre, Homi Patel, K. K. Hebber, and others.

Art lovers had an opportunity to view Jehangir Nicholson's collection at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, in October 1998. The collection is important not only for the number of paintings it has and their historical significance but also for the late collector's sentimental value attached to it. When Jehangir Nicholson first started collecting art, he did not have any specific purpose or pattern.

Nicholson worked at Breul & Company, the family cotton business, and spent his spare time in art galleries, looking at paintings or discussing them with artists and critics. It was only after his wife's death in 1967 that he started devoting greater attention to the activity. His artistic sensibilities were fine-tuned after he came in touch with the likes of M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza and Akbar Padamsee. Over a period of time, he developed a keen insight and an expertise in the subject of Indian art.

Gradually, a pattern emerged. Works by artists like Ram Kumar and Krishen Khanna, Ganesh Pyne and Bhupen Khakhar, V. S. Gaitonde and Akbar Padamsee started being inducted in greater numbers into his collection. Laxman Shreshtha, Husain, Ara, Atul and Anju Dodiya were also among his favorite artists. His collection featured most of the leading Indian artists who produced work over the last century, ranging from Rabindranath Tagore and Jamini Roy, to Anjolie Ela Menon, Nalani Malani and Jitish Kallat.

In the 1970's, he agreed to the suggestion of a permanent display of his collection at the National Centre for Performing Arts, located in South Mumbai. It had been his desire for some time to set up a museum of modern art. He gave a part of his collection to the NCPA in 1976 at the request of the then NCPA director V. K. Narayana Menon. Industrialist and art patron J.R.D. Tata too supported the idea, and suggested that the collection be housed in a building in the NCPA and called 'The Jehangir Nicholson Museum of Modern Art'. Artist Bal Chhabda also encouraged and assisted Nicholson in setting up the museum. The octogenarian collector, who, until his last breath thought of little else then expanding and preserving his collection, died on October 31, 2001.

'The Bombay Connection - works of art and sculpture from the late Jehangir Nicholson's Collection' show continues at the new Museum Gallery in the refurbished Stuttgart Hall till February 21, 2004. Exhibitions by Payal Khandwala, Laxma Goud, Gautam Vaghela and Manish Nai have been scheduled next at the Museum Gallery.

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