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An Interview With Anurag Khanna

Award winning art collector and an astute businessman, Anurag Khanna has been collecting works of art for almost two decades. His collections include pans through various mediums wherein the underlying aspects are politics, gender, feminism, sexuality, minimalism, and abstraction. In a freewheeling chat with Indrojit D. Chaudhuri, he shares how each one of them come together to form emotional stories which Anurag likes to make a part of his life, lend to museums, and enjoys sharing with the public in large.

- Tell us about your collection, what do you like to collect?

I like to collect various things such as video art, films, paintings, sculptures, drawings, etchings, photography etc. The idea is to collect minds and thoughts that resonate with me without medium being a deciding factor among the objects.

Anurag Khanna - Photo Courtesy: Siddharth Dhanvant Sanghvi

Anurag Khanna - Photo Courtesy: Siddharth Dhanvant Sanghvi 

- Why do you collect it?

We live in a monetary driven world and the idea is to enjoy music, art, dance and everything else that is relevant too. I don’t think anything better has happened in my life than this chance introduction to art. It makes my life more meaningful and I enjoy the fact that my children are being raised surrounded by art and culture. I believe, these are the finer nuances of life, which every parent should introduce to their children. This helps the younger generation pick up early tastes and habits in art and will continue to enjoy forever. I feel it is a great medium of learning and enable them to think from an alternate point of view which is a humbling experience for us.

Besides cocooning my family away from the painful realities through art, I also lend my collection to institutions for others to see and appreciate as well.

- What does your collection give you?

Peace of mind, happiness, joy and a reason to live amongst many other things. It contributes in making me a better businessman as I try being emphatic and look at the world from others perspective. This makes me more of a people's person, by being connected to my employees, being approachable and stand with them when they need me the most. And when I come back home to an environment surrounded by these beautiful objects, it takes all my stress away and gives me energy to face the world the next day, to collect and love art even more.

- Are you trying to make a new world for yourself?

I am not that powerful to make a world of my own but I feel blessed that God has given me these opportunities where I can help make this place “worth living” for my family and friends.

- What do you think of India’s art community?

Earlier art was represented by a strong but small community of artists, dealers, collectors, museum goers and many more who are part of this eco system for years now. But now, it makes me happy about the fact that art is slowly being appreciate and more people are talking, experiencing, thinking about the idea of living and loving art. I see it becoming part of our everyday lives, which will be very rewarding. It will only help in making us humane and loveable and away from a world of ego.

- Is it fair to compare India’s art community with that of the west?

Not at all, if we talk about contemporary art we are still developing and far away from the west. Specially so, when we talk about the market, how it operates and how we have grown to absorb art to live around and appreciate. Its all happening but it will take some more years for us to have broader minds to accept things. I feel as more of us travel and meet others and converse, our minds will open up to appreciate all forms of art. I am hopeful that some of us will cross the bridge and catch up with the west.

Details from Subway Writers from Moyra Davey, Photo Courtesy: Gallery Buchholz ,Berlin

Details from Subway Writers from Moyra Davey, Photo Courtesy: Gallery Buchholz ,Berlin 

- What does your family think of your collection?

When I started collecting about 18 years ago, they thought I had gone crazy and doing nothing but wasting money, but for me art came first. Overtime they have gotten used to these objects, appreciate them as well. And when they know people of strong positions in life are coming home to have a look at the art I think their minds are changing as well.

I also live with very strong works which can be graphic, with nudity and I have been slowly introducing this aspect to everyone at home. I remember in 1999 I came back from Paris with some prints from the Louvre book shop, framed and put them in our dining room. The prints were small and the women in them were nude so my father asked me to remove them. However, over time traveling with me to museums and seeing art in institutions have opened their minds, they are far more accepting then they were 10 years ago. And I am really thankful for that.

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