Choosing art is like choosing a life partner

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Interview/ Gaurav Bhatia, managing director, sotheby’s india

What does luxury mean to you?

I believe in slow luxury—artisanal, discreet and evocative—backed by extraordinary craftsmanship and cutting-edge innovation. Art is the ultimate luxury. It is rare, a unique expression of an artist and is the highest form of human endeavour. That makes art luxury.

Your home is a reflection of your personal style—elegant and discreet. What draws you to a particular work of art? Is it the artist or his style or the theme?

Our home is the story of our lives, our travels, our memories, our passions, our children. It captures so many journeys and such rich ones. It is self-designed and evolved over the years.

I react organically to art—sometimes spontaneously, sometimes after deliberation. Choosing art is in many ways like choosing a life partner—it is about an instant connect, a chemistry, what appeals to you. Then you look at character and depth—how relevant is it and what conversation is it making [and] can you grow old with it?

You were just 13 when you bought your first antique bookcase. Over the years, you have collected hundreds of antiques and artefacts from across the world. How do you designate the ideal space for each of them?

As children, we were privileged to be exposed to beautiful things. My parents would always drag my sister and me to galleries and antique shops. It was a natural osmosis. Whether they bought anything or not, I always took back a story.

Around my thirteenth birthday, I was on one of my parents’ hunting trips at the cavernous godown of the stalwart Mahendra Doshi. Among all the exquisite old furniture, I fell in love with a dusty rosewood Dutch colonial bookshelf and spontaneously asked for it as my birthday present. My parents were pleasantly surprised. From then on, for every birthday, my mother tried to encourage me to buy a work of art or furniture. She realised it was a win-win for her and gave her the excuse to collect even more. The story has a sad ending. My mother kept all the pieces, and still has them in her beautiful home. I got jilted!

What is the most precious work of art in your living room?

A painting by our older son, Abeer, made when he was five. The work is so strong it defines our dining space. In competition, our younger son, Adhiraj, keeps dotting the house with his works of art every week, hoping we will frame one of them one day. I have to get around to doing that. Children are the best artists.

From cutting-edge contemporary art to 100-year-old rugs to Tanjores and Kalighat Pats, there is perfect harmony between diverse artistic statements at your home. How do you strike this balance?

Our home is a slow collection built over 20 years with details even we forget.

It is self-designed, a mix of spontaneous, studied, curious, playful and accidental.

It is our passion of collecting and the inherent beauty in each object that perhaps creates what is quite an interesting juxtaposition. It is like being in a room with many beautiful and intelligent people. The conversation is bound to be invigorating!

You come from a family of art collectors. What were your most important take-aways from the previous generations?

Have a deep reverence for art, always be curious and encourage the future generation to collect. Art opens your mind in a way little else can.

Which are your go-to brands for home accessories and interiors in India?

India is an explosion of art and design that straddles its rich past and present beautifully. We collect art from galleries across India, from contemporary art to antique decorative and even folk art.

Our furniture is largely from The House of Mahendra Doshi and Phillips Antiques, dotted with new and exciting designers like Verner Panton, Marc Newson, Philippe Starck, Viya Home and Le Mill among others.

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