THE ART OF COLLECTING
Neville Tuli, Founder Chairman – Osian Group has over twenty years of experience in Indian arts, not to mention his stellar qualication of an economist and developmental theorist at the London School of Economics and St. Catherine’s College
Osian Group’s Neville Tulli talks about his foray into arts, how to hone one’s eye to be an avid collector and the art destinations that currently top his travel list.
Please tell us a little about your foray into arts?
On returning from England to India in 1994, I realised the need for building a cultural infrastructure in India, which would be nancially independent and integrated across the cultural spectrum. Over the next ve years, I travelled and studied over 200 of India’s architectural sites, wrote one of the rst major books on Indian Modern Fine Arts, established India’s rst auction house for the arts and started building the archive-library that would one day become the base for the Research Centre, which nally opens in rst quarter of 2018.
What was the rst artwork you collected and why?
The rst European artworks, African tribal sculpture and Japanese woodcuts were collected just after my University days during the late 1980s. The rst Indian artworks purchased were those created by Laxma Goud, F.N. Souza and K. Ramanujam.
Which is your most cherished piece?
Having been on the wonderful rollercoaster of life where so much passes through your hands, there’s a realisation that you are simply a temporary custodian with the duty to protect, nurture and share the Darshana artworks.Ubl Attachment is a luxury I’d rather avoid and therefore I have no cherished items.
Do you have a budget in mind when buying art?
Not really, one should not buy art if budgets are of concern. Yet at the same time, all of us have nancial limitations. The key is not to break yourself too much.
Is there a particular artwork that has moved you or changed how you approach art?
There are many artworks which constantly redene one’s perceptions, but mostly, it is an ongoing process
where each artwork allows your mind and aesthetic sensibility to evolve, hence inuencing all the other values within. Also, at each stage of growth, different artworks change ideas for different reasons, and it can be any object, small or profound; the key is the context in which you enjoy those moments.
Where is your favourite artist destination in the world?
Places that merge great art or museums with a joyous experience of nature are much preferred, hence St. Ives, Kyoto, Oxfordshire and Ubud the next visits.
For those who are just discovering their passion for art, how do you suggest they embark upon this journey?
Dive deep without thought of consequences. Go beyond your reach and never budget or manage expectations. Rarely listen to anyone but your own inner voice. Never underestimate the importance of familiarising yourself with art history.
How do you suggest a collector hone his eyes towards art?
One needs to consistently see, read and listen to wise voices only to reafrm and counter your voice. Fall in love with all that life has to offer. One should keep their mind open and share art and hand over to others, when the time comes, as a true custodian would. Lastly, avoid digital imagery as much possible.
What according to you are the collectibles that one can look at investing in, strictly in terms of returns?
Art as an investment is sustainable only when the historical signicance of the artwork and the artist have been veried by the critical scholarship with due diligence, by the institutional frameworks that promote art. Select artworks by the Indian modern masters are thus, at present, what most depend upon.
Any do’s and don’ts that come to mind when collecting art?
Do not listen to gossip, rumour, hearsay and tittle-tattle. Focus on history. Study and see as much as you can, read everything, understand the subject intellectually as well as visually.
Any maintenance tips that you would like to share with our readers with regards to their collections?
Be careful of humidity, bright light and dust. Care for your art as you would look after your own children.
How do you see the art scene evolve in India?
It can only go upwards and become more compassionate, deeper, integrated and embedded within one’s daily life. Yet, none of this will happen unless a systematic cultural infrastructure-building effort is not privileged by both the private and public sectors. This requires not just wealth and effort, but vision.