Kito De Boer and his wife Jane Gowers, originally from London, are two of the most well-known international collectors of Indian art.
Perhaps the largest and most varied collection of Indian art in private hands, their collection is a remarkable one with a broad historical scope and wide range of artists. It presents a survey of Indian painting from the late 19th century to the present day, covering major art movements, particularly the Bengal School, and includes significant works by Ganesh Pyne, Rameshwar Broota, Sayed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, A. Ramachandran, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Maqbool Fida Husain and K. Lama Goud among other artists. Now living between London and Dubai, the couple began collecting more than 25 years ago when they moved to New Delhi, and have continued their journey as patrons of Indian art and culture since then.
Describing how their interest in Indian art developed, Kito said, “We came from London in 1992 but it wasn’t until we started living here that we were overwhelmed by the culture. It started off with visiting places like Hampi, where you get a sense of what an extraordinary civilization India is. We then started to discover Indian classical music, classical dances and of course the food which was the easiest to learn. Part of the culture was the visual culture, and that’s when I suppose we chose to focus on art, because you can actually collect it and make the culture a part of yourselves. It was in the early days just one component of many, in terms of how do you engage with a society that is as dynamic, big and complicated as India as an outsider.” Jane added, “The first work we bought is Bengali artist Ganesh Pyne from the Kumar gallery. I wanted to see more of his works – there’s a good one at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, but beyond that it was tough to source more of his work. Back in the day there was no internet, you couldn’t find pictures of art you were trying to collect… there may have been pamphlets with terrible quality. So I found out about who the collectors were of Pyne and then asked if I could visit their collections. The response was unanimously warm and positive. People welcomed me with open arms and I went around looking at all these collections which was such a pleasure.”Some 1,000 items from their collection are set to go up on auction at Christie’s South Asian Modern + Contemporary art sale in New York on 18 March 2020.
Deepanjana Klein, International Head of Department for Contemporary Indian & Southeast Asian Art at Christie’s, said of the collection, “It’s an honour for us, the collection is so unique. As an auction house we see different kinds of collections – some have only trophy pieces, some speak and reek of great investments – people put together collections for various reasons. This collection is unique because it’s got these few artists that they’ve collected in depth and you know it’s all driven by the passion the two of them have for these artists.”