Architect / Artist
Khushroo Kalyanwala is an architect and an artist who has had three solo shows of his digital artworks, but it doesn’t take long to find out that his real passion in life is collecting. He began as a child—collecting stamps, comic books and currency—and now, collections of 80-year-old Dutch ceramic plates, buffalo horn cups from Bhutan, masks and gargoyles adorn the walls of his sumptuously and tastefully appointed New Delhi flat. The living room display shelves are stocked with old glass bottles, ceramic jars and quaint stoneware “spirit” jars—all roughly 100 years old.
Offshore: Kalyanwala has found artworks in old ships. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
Also hanging on the walls are original artworks collected over the past 15 years at prices ranging from Rs10,000-75,000. Among them, a pastel drawing by S. Harshvardhan, mixed media works on paper by Dhiraj Chowdhury and abstract watercolours by Yogendra Tripathi. There are two limited edition prints by M.F. Husain which Kalyanwala bought together for Rs20,000 from the Rimari Art Gallery in New Delhi in 1996. Over the years, the market value of these works has gone up significantly, though Kalyanwala has not kept track of how much.
Like most long-term buyers, he is full of anecdotes about his collection. A contemporary sculpture of a stoneware bull, a gift from a friend, rests on a side table. “I could tell from the nice lines that it was by a good artist,” he says. He spotted a similar sculpture at the Delhi Art Gallery and found out that the bull had been made by sculptor Jai Zharotia.
Once every year, Kalyanwala, who grew up in Ahmedabad, heads off to the Alang shipyard in Gujarat where old ships from the world over are dismantled and the scrap sold. “Ship-breaking yards have huge doors, windows, light fittings and cutlery,” he says. “But old ships also have artworks that you can pick up for a few hundred to a few thousand rupees.” Some years ago he spotted two original landscapes on paper that he liked, and bought them for Rs700 each. A closer look revealed that they dated back to 1921 and had been painted by the European artist J. Reinhold. Similar works by the artist are worth €1,200-1,500 (around Rs80,500-1 lakh now) in the international market.
His advice to art buyers on a budget is to go to galleries: “Any gallery, even the big ones, has a lot of stuff (that is affordable) in their stock.”
To begin with, Devjani Roy would cut pictures of paintings out of calendars and frame them to decorate her walls. She has come some way since then; original paintings, drawings and sculptures now adorn her Gurgaon home. Roy, who teaches economics at the Sanskriti School in New Delhi, has been buying artworks for 20 years now and the most she has ever paid for a piece in Rs45,000—for a colourful oil painting of a trapeze artist by Bhadra that she bought seven years ago.
She used to buy works by art college students but admits that she doesn’t do so any more. “I don’t like works by students as (now) I can see the raw hand,” she says. Roy still goes to the annual senior students show at the Delhi College of Art, though of late the prices there have usually been beyond her budget. “The students have been told by their teachers not to sell their works cheap,” she says. “Today, I won’t pay the price they ask for.”
When Roy travels, visiting local galleries is usually on her agenda, whether she is in Goa, Indore or Jaipur. One destination she loved and wants to visit again is the university town of Santiniketan, where she says you can still buy art that is “so ridiculously cheap”. She loved the contemporary treatment of traditional terracotta paintings she saw there.
To avoid paying gallery commissions, Roy prefers buying directly from the artist and she hit upon a novel place to find good art at a good price—framing shops. That is where artists get their works framed and that is where she would go looking for a good deal. If she liked something, she would ask the framer for the artist’s phone number.
She first saw the portrait of a lady that hangs in her dining room—a tempera wash painting by a young artist who she says sells in lakhs now—at a framing shop and paid Rs17,000 for it. She still regularly visits framing shops in Kotla, the Santushti shopping complex and the Hauz Khas market in Delhi.
In her drawing room is a beautiful clay sculpture of two slightly amorphous Ganeshas stuck back to back. “I saw this bronze Ganesha sculpture that I couldn’t afford but would keep coming back to admire,” she recalls. “The sculptor, Vikas Rao, finally asked me how much I could pay for a work and I told him Rs5,000.” He then made the twin clay Ganeshas for her.
She has one more tip for buyers—artists make a lot of charcoal drawings to prepare for their paintings; these often make for great cheap art.