Kishore Singh takes the Neuberger Berman/Lehman Brothers auctions as an opportunity to explore the question of corporate art collections in India. There are a number of them:
Art as a corporate investment is, of course, a rarity still in India. We now have enough examples of corporate houses directly or indirectly through their promoters investing in art, yet few view them as bankable assets, though the value of such collections has probably grown manifold over the years. Among those that have occasionally tested the market are Bennett, Coleman & Co whose international auction forays over the years have seen it fetch record prices for such artists as Tyeb Mehta and M F Husain. Many of us are thoughtless enough to consider only modern and/or contemporary art as an investment, forgetting that some older companies are probably sitting on a fortune in miniature paintings, sculpture or even folk art — Ghanshyam Das Birla was one such collector.
The financial worth of groups like Taj and ITC, who have over the years so effortlessly invested in art, is probably staggering — the nod here is particularly to their hotel companies, since otherwise art purchases have been restricted to the offices of the senior-most bosses and for board rooms. The Oberoi group, on the other hand, has invested less in any worthwhile art in at least its city hotels, in contrast to the newbie Leela group where the art is somewhat more evident. Among the visible faces of collecting in corporate circles, the most substantial references are of Religare’s Malvinder Singh, HCL’s Shiv Nadar and the Rajshree group’s Rajshree Pathy, though of course there are several others who buy on a quieter or more modest scale.
Collecting as Asset Building (Business Standard)