Aakaash Belsare is of a new generation of middle class Indian cultivating their cultural interests by positively investing in its aesthetics; specifically taking an interest in modern and contemporary art.

And what is telling of this self-taught collector; who has along with his business partner been confidently acquiring works for a substantial private collection; is that when the markets deflated, effecting the economy of art, that he like so many picking over the portfolios of the leading modern and contemporary artists in India, chose to focus on modern works, specifically the Progressive Era, (conceived in 1947, at the point of independence, and disbanded in 1956), which saw contemporary art become the expendable froth on an expensive enterprise.

Rajesh Punj: What was the first work you bought and why?

Aakaash Belsare: While in Delhi in early 2010, my business partner Vishal Vora and I, happened to visit the India Art Fair, (that time it was better known as India Art Summit), and we were at Pragati Maidan, the location of the fair, by sheer chance. Seeing so much modern and contemporary art on display, and watching and scrutinising people all readily buying works, encouraged us to acquire an artwork. The first work that we bought was a grey toned graphite drawing on paper, which was folded into a black box work, buy a young Indian contemporary artist Dilip Chobisa, from New Delhi based gallery Latitude 28. The work was a painting come sculptural work, which fitted our office space perfectly. We still own the piece.

Akbar Padamsee (B. 1928), Untitled, oil on canvas, 92.1 x 64.8 cm, 1967, photo credit Christie's Images LTD 2014, MyTemplArt Magazine

Akbar Padamsee (B. 1928), Untitled, oil on canvas, 92.1 x 64.8 cm, 1967, photo credit Christie’s Images LTD 2014

Rajesh Punj: When did your collection become something more substantial?

Aakaash Belsare: I can say our collection started becoming much more substantial when we started purchasing works of modern Indian artists, especially the Bombay ‘Progressive Artists’, including Francis Newton Souza, Sayed Haider Raza, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna, Akbar Padamsee among them. Also the inclusion of Jogen Chowdhury, K.G. Subramaniam, Sudhir Patwardhan, Vivan Sundaram, Nasreen Mohamedi, Kattingeri Khishna Hebbar and Bhupen Khakhar, collectively added incredible substance to our growing collection. At the time we also started expanding our collection and included Pakistani artists like Mohammad Ali Talpur and Muhammad Zeeshan. This genuinely made us both think about modern and contemporary artists beyond India. And then we also started collecting photography as a new medium for the collection. We have photographs by Pushpamala N, Sudarshan Shetty, Siddharth Dhanvant Sanghavi and Riyas Komu. And the final thread for us was to add more contemporary works, from artists Anita Dube, Vasudha Thozhur, Jitish Kallat and Shilpa Gupta and digital collages by Manjunath Kamath.

Rajesh Punj: What was the last work you bought, and in terms of your collection are you more interested in two-dimensional works?

Aakaash Belsare: The last work we bought is a Sayed Haider Raza canvas of the cosmic tree from his ‘Bindu Series’. We would love to collect many more three-dimensional works, but Indian art is predominantly two-dimensional, so as of now our collection mostly consists of works on paper and canvas. However we have incorporated sculptural works by Baiju Parthan, Bharti Kher, Prajakta Potnis, Prajakta Palav Aher, Raqs Media Collective, Siddharth Kararwal, Rekha Rodwittaya, and Prajjwal Chaudhary into our collection.