Air India's treasure of art

about 2 years ago
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Air India as a national carrier has time and again failed miserably and frequent fliers, unless left with absolutely no option at all, pushed to a corner, reluctantly fly Air India. The state owned banks have pulled up their act and today they are proving to be much more efficient than the private sector banks but Air India refuses to change.

The only good thing about Air India is the treasure trove of assets it is sitting upon. No, we are not referring to the land parcels in prime spots across India but the collection of art it owns.

Yes, Air India owns some of the best arts in the country. And this is again thanks to JRD Tata. When the airline was started and they opened international offices, JRD put a team to work, asking them to scout around for good art which will adorn the offices so that when customers walk in, “they could carry back a little of India” in their minds.

The team went most go – JJ School of Arts and looked for art which was affordable but done by some the institutions best students. Using the yearly budget for this exercise, the airline also commissioned artists to paint murals on the walls of Air India’s booking offices at international locations. At times, a work of art was added to the collection in lieu of an air ticket given to the artist.  This was some 60 years ago; today all these artists are HUGE and their paintings are worth in crores. Today, art connoisseur’s simply do not know how to value these pieces of art – they are all simply priceless.

The collection, apart from paintings, includes stone sculptors , carved wooden panels, antique rugs, wall hangings, British litho prints, collection of clocks from the late 19th century, woodwork from Gujarat, wood carvings from South India and printed and painted textiles.

One does not know whether Air India will be ever privatized but it most certainly can raise money by selling these arts or else, it will all die and wither away in some warehouse or godown in neglect.

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