The art of collecting: Anurag Khanna

Sunday, 25 May 2014 - 6:10am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Awarded the title of Forbes young collector of the year, in these past few years Anurag Khanna has amassed quite an art collection. Based in Gandhidham, Kutch, I've always been intrigued by Anurag's unique way of collecting. The self-taught art enthusiast spends months researching artists' practices and works before adding works to his collection. But recently Anurag has earned the reputation of being quite a risk taker and has become one of the few collectors in India, who has dedicated a significant portion of his collection to experimental practices and video art. Given his relative distance from the artworld in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, to me his vision seems that much more impressive. I caught up with Anurag to learn more about his rather unorthodox taste and engagement with art.

When did you start collecting? What was the first piece you bought?
It was in 2001, when I bought my first few pieces of art, it was trip to Mumbai where I bought works of Sunil Padwal, Manisha Parekh and Samir Mondal on the same trip.

You are based in Kutch, tell us about how you keep in touch with the Indian and global art scene?
Well, it's not very difficult to sit here and do this, internet, emails, travel and reading help keep me abreast with all the art developments in India and abroad that I wish to concentrate on. In fact, staying away from the mainstream helps me develop my own taste, look and consider things that I would like to collect rather than get influence by suggestions and recommendations of other people within the art world. A good collection should reflect your individual taste so its always 50 per cent you and 50 per cent the artist, I strongly believe that in my capacity living here is a boon for me as it helps me develop my individual taste.

What are some of the challenges you've faced while collecting work?
Oh there are many, since I collect contemporary art, the biggest challenge is to find artists, who could be historically relevant over time. It's unfortunate but in the fast pace world we live it's normal to see young artists change careers over time and you can be sitting on art of an artist who may not pursue his or her career further and that is very disheartening. Though I don't buy a lot of paintings but it's always such a difficult medium to collect unless you don't see the work with your own eyes, there is always a feeling of being unsure about what you do all the time.
Name twot to three artists you think young collectors should look out for.

Sreshta Rit Premnath, Fahd Burki, Mehreen Murtaza and Alexander Gorlizki.

Who are some of your favourite artists in the subcontinent?
In the South Asian context, I particularly like Bani Abidi, Yamini Nayar, Naeem Mohaiemen, Gauri Gill and Zakkir Hussain. I think all these artists are doing some phenomenal work and over the next few year,s I am sure they will prove to be among the best that our region has to offer.

Who's on your wish list, which artist's work would you love to acquire?
The wish list is too long but if space and money for me was not a constraint, I would definitely buy silkscreen paintings by RH Quaytman, wool paintings of Rosemarie Trockel, sculptures by Donald Judd, videos by Allora & Calzadilla and date paintings of On Kawara.

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