As you enter the visitors’ lounge at Jindal Mansion on Pedder Road, which houses the offices of JSW and JSW Foundation, you encounter paintings by Rajan Krishnan and Baiju Parthan. Krishnan’s Plant Of Sustenance features bulbous jackfruits in close-up: The jackfruits seem lifelike, ripe and edible and you have to resist the urge to reach out and touch them. Parthan’s multimedia work, Meta Flora, depicts a large red hibiscus-like flower looming over the grid of a city.

The office buildings of JSW at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) and Pedder Road exhibit a variety of modern and contemporary artworks, thanks to the efforts of Sangita Jindal, chairperson of the JSW Foundation and an art patron and collector. Her trip seven years ago to the Sony building in New York, which housed a staggering art collection, sparked the idea of displaying art in JSW offices.

“Most of my painting collection is in all my offices," says Jindal. “I wanted to showcase Indian modern and contemporary art and wanted my office to become like a museum of Indian art. I wanted my employees to experience the arts and aesthetics of their country. Everyone’s life is humdrum and hampered in some way, from people travelling in the trains to dealing with work pressures. Art adds colour, and acts as a panacea and stress reliever."

In the past, Jindal Mansion has hosted two public art projects by St+art, a group specializing in street art. In 2014, squiggly green tentacles could be spotted bursting out of the fifth-floor windows of Jindal Mansion. The aim of this inflatable installation by artist Filthy Luker was to take art to the streets. Last year, fashion designer Manish Arora draped the building with his installation, All I Need Is Love, which comprised around 2,000 embroidery hoops with different fabrics that formed the shape of a heart.

“My employees have become involved in art and ask questions. We have a stag with an owl sitting on one of its horns by Jagannath Panda (Wizard Of The Wasteland) on the ninth floor of the BKC office. Many people have asked me about this work and they ruefully add that they don’t understand modern art," says Jindal.

Sangita Jindal decided to display art at JSW offices after a visit to the Sony office in New York. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Sangita Jindal decided to display art at JSW offices after a visit to the Sony office in New York. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Jindal herself chooses most of the artworks to be displayed and makes sure that the works are “positive, tasteful, without any unpleasantness and promiscuity".

The art helps employees acclimatize to international trends, she says. “JSW is expanding and slowly we are going to be global citizens. We have footprints all over the world and our employees go everywhere so they see that our offices meet global standards, as art is an integral part of all major international offices," she says.

Niyatee Shinde, consultant archivist, JSW, believes art helps improve employee performance. “You put a piece of creativity on the wall, it inspires people," Shinde says. She is not far off the mark. According to a 2010 study by the University of Exeter’s Craig Knight, who analysed the psychology of working spaces, lean, anodyne workspaces lower productivity, while an aesthetic environment makes people happier and more productive.

“Whenever I pass Anish Kapoor’s Hex Mirror at our entrance, I look at it and smile," says Shinde. “It makes me happy." Shinde works with a large housekeeping team and there are regular visits by conservators for the upkeep of the artworks.

Jagannath Panda’s ‘Wizard Of The Wasteland’. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Jagannath Panda’s ‘Wizard Of The Wasteland’. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

She believes it is better to display abstract works in a corporate set-up . “Most figurative works show an event or an act and people are often familiar with those acts so the familiarity inhibits them from standing in front of the image and spending time with it," she says. For instance, a painting by Arun K.S. depicting Christ did not spark much interest or curiosity. But an abstract work by Vilas Shinde, which replaced it, attracted a lot of interest among employees, who came up with their own interpretations of what it depicted.

Nisha Fernandes, a receptionist at JSW’s BKC office, says she has never worked in an office with so much art around her. Her favourite is a mural titled JSW by Dhruvi Acharya, at the cafeteria. Commissioned by JSW, it depicts vignettes from the daily life of a company employee—from riding a scooter to work, to carrying a suitcase and playing a musical instrument. “This work gives me a sense of community, as if I am part of a large joint family," she says.

Art at work is a series which looks at how offices are looking to inspire and boost creativity in their staff through art.