The government is open to the idea of having a permanent exhibition of Air India’s art collection, according to a senior official of the Ministry of Culture. The national carrier’s artistic treasures comprise works by stalwarts such as K.H. Ara, M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza and V.S. Gaitonde.

The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) under the Ministry of Culture will take custody of Air India’s artworks at a time the airline is looking to cut costs. Ashwani Lohani, when he was Air India’s chairman and managing director, had proposed to set up a museum of all the artefacts and paintings collected by the airline over a period of six decades at its Nariman Point building in Mumbai.

However, a tender floated to set up a museum at the cost of Rs. 3.5 crore was junked after the Cabinet approved privatisation of the national carrier last year in June.

“The NGMA is mandated to look after works of modern art. A team (from NGMA) and I went to Air India’s office in Mumbai and we are in the process of assessing the entire art collection,” Raghvendra Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Culture, told
The Hindu

Exclusive museum?

To a question on whether the Ministry will look into setting up an exclusive museum of Air India’s art collection he said, “We can have a permanent exhibition too, with 200-300 of the total artworks exhibited at a time. We also plan to take these exhibits to other museums in the country.”

It is estimated that Air India has nearly 8,000 artistic treasures. These include nearly 4,000 paintings and the rest are sculptures dating back to the ninth century, woodwork, a collection of exquisite clocks as well as memorabilia in the form of paintings reproduced on menu cards, greeting cards.

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