Air India sale: Even as the national carrier Air India is handed over to its new and rightful owner the Tatas, the art collection, built by its founder JRD Tata, is most likely to remain with the government. The deal entails only the airline and its non-core assets–such as land, building and other such belongings, revealed the officials. The formal process of handover and consequent display of the collection in the capital is expected to begin anytime soon, sources in the Ministry of Culture said.
The focus shifted to the art collection in July 2018 when the proposed sale of Air India’s Nariman Point building started to take shape.“The Maharaja collection”is said to have 4,000 work including paintings carved by legendary artists of all the time such as M F Husain, V S Gaitonde, Anjolie Ela Menon and Jatin Das. The sources reveal that the handover of the collection would be done to the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, that too as charity. As charity because it was “just a transfer from one arm of the government to another”.
The works were left unopened for several decades as the airline’s fortunes started declining. It was later packed and kept away in the Nariman Point building storehouse to keep it safe. It is said that some of the works from the collection have been stolen, lost or damaged with due course of time. The management had to bear the heat for not being able to keep the priceless collection.
In 2017, popular artist Jatin Das found that his 1991 oil painting, which was acquired by Air India, is up for sale in the open market for Rs 25 lakh. It was later found that one who stole the painting was from none other than a former Air India executive. He was found guilty for stealing and a complaint was also filed against him for selling government property in the open market. The airline also examined how many more former or serving Air India officials could have possessions for such a valuable painting collection.