Mumbai's Pundole Art Gallery opens public auction house

Mar 08, 2014, 10:20 IST | Hassan M Kamal

Pundole Art Gallery, one of Mumbai's oldest, recently opened a new art space in Colaba that’s home to its auction house, Pundole’s. Hassan M Kamal spoke to its head Dadiba Pundole about their plans

Five decades after being a landmark art space at Flora Fountain, the Pundole Art Gallery, has added a new art space. This time, the Pundoles have set up an auction house, in Colaba. For those who have visited Pundole Art Gallery, the new auction house space called Pundole’s, can be intimidating, largely because of its tall glass door and a security guard posted 24x7 outside the Tanna House, where it is located.

Dadiba Pundole at Pundole's in Colaba. Pic/ Bipin Kokate

The space is bigger, and is divided into four smaller rooms, each emerging from the central hall like branches of a tree, each with a distinct colour and character. “Every corner has a personal touch,” says Dadiba Pundole, who heads the auction house with his small team of experts. “This is an intimate space, unlike the Pundole Art Gallery, where everything was open to the public.”

Different strokes
But isn’t a gallery, essentially a public space? “Yes,” he replies, standing beside a towering MF Husain work. Though located amid art spaces like Jehangir Art Gallery and the NGMA, Pundole says, he would miss the advantage that made Pundole Art Gallery so popular among the masses.

The Pundole’s auction house is located in the same space, which was earlier home to the Sakshi Gallery. Pics/Bipin Kokate

He explains the difference, “At the Fountain, we were in front of the street. Many visitors were office-goers; they would drop by to see art works in their lunch breaks. Some would randomly walk in to take a look,” adding, “I wouldn’t mind that approach here too, but with an auction house, it’s different: so much work is on display. We need to be alert, we need security. Besides, we need to work on our viewing manners. I don’t blame children, because they like to touch, but at times, I find adults running a finger over everything on the wall. This is not good,” he rues.

Back to the past
When Dadiba joined Pundole, in the 1980s, there wasn’t much money in art, but artists were secure about themselves and their style; he finds this missing in the current generation. “Many of the Indian masters — Husain, SH Raza, FN Souza, KH Ara, VS Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, Akbar Padamsee, Krishen Khanna, Tyeb Mehta among others — worked in Mumbai at the same time. They would go to each other’s studios, exchange ideas, discuss works. When an artist was working on something new he would share it with the rest, and get clarity by talking to people. There was a lot of sharing,” he emphasises.

He reveals how times have changed, “Nobody wants to share anything. This insecurity never existed earlier. Artists worked so closely, yet their work was distinctly different. Each had their style. That is something I am grappling to understand.”

Hoarder’s paradise
Dadiba believes that collecting art is about belief, but slowly, it can turn into a disease. This, he maintains, is one of the main reasons why India sees less of art in public spaces. “We have a huge art heritage, but why is most of it away from the public eye? Indians don’t like to share. We like to hoard. People buy more than they need, stacking them away,” he says.

With the auction house, Dadiba hopes to bring collectors’ works to the public. “We are a auction house, but our doors are open to the public for viewing.” Pundole’s intends to host at least two auctions a year and host art workshops throughout the year.

From 10.30 am to 7.30 pm
At Pundole’s, Tanna House, ground floor, 11/A Nathalal Parekh Marg, Colaba. 
Call 22020645

The Pundole legacy

The gallery
Kali Pundole, Dadiba's father ran a frame-making business. After the initial push from MF Husain and other artists of that era, Kali Pundole opened the Pundole Art Gallery in 1963. Since then, it has been the centre of some of the best shows which featured works by giants of Indian art including name like MF Husain and Akbar Padamsee to Ram Kumar and VS Gaitonde.

The auction house
Dadiba Pundole joined the gallery in 1980. While he continued with the tradition of hosting some of the biggest artists, he was inclined towards auctions, joining Sotheby’s in 2005. But his association ended in 2010. A year later a collector approached Dadiba to auction his works. Having left Sotheby’s with no intention to return to the auctions, a reluctant Dadiba agreed to the request and Pundole’s was born. “It was more by accident,” says Pundole. Between 2011 and 2013, Pundole’s organised six auctions, featuring works from iconic artists like Husain, Souza and Tyeb Mehta among others.

What’s on
The auction house is currently showing works from its first major auction, after shifting base to Colaba from Flora Fountain. These works will be later auctioned in the Fine Art Sale at the NCPA on March 12 and will features 91 lots, divided into Asian antiquities including a selection of 10th and 11th centuries figurines and works from artists from the Progressive Artists’ Group such as Souza and Husain.

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