Jehangir Nicholson (b. 1915; d. 2001)
A businessman and collector of Indian art, Jehangir KS Nicholson is known for developing one of the most carefully sourced, diverse and comprehensive collections of over eight hundred contemporary paintings and sculptures that document the stylistic evolution of post-Independence artists between 1968 and 2001.
A chartered accountant and businessman by profession, Nicholson acquired his first painting, A Scenery by Sharad Waykool, in 1968, during a visit to the Taj Art Gallery. Soon after acquiring this painting, Nicholson began visiting galleries such as Gallery Chemould (now Chemould Prescott Road) and Pundole’s on a regular basis. It was during one such visit to Pundole’s, in 1969, that Nicholson met artists Sunita Shreshtha and Laxman Shreshtha. Within a year, Nicholson bought his first painting by Laxman Shreshtha, and continued acquiring paintings from all of Shreshtha’s exhibitions, leading to one of the most comprehensive collections of the artist’s work. Shrestha also introduced Nicholson to other artists such as Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta, MF Husain, SH Raza and Krishen Khanna.
Nicholson soon became an active member of the art community in Mumbai, regularly visiting galleries and studios and acquiring works by artists who exhibited in the city. His private collection featured works by leading Indian artists, including Jamini Roy, Anjolie Ela Menon, Jitish Kallat, Anju and Atul Dodiya, and many from the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG). Over time, he began focusing on documenting the stylistic journeys of individual artists by acquiring a range of their works.
In 1976, Nicholson loaned a portion of his collection to the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai, at the request of then-director VK Narayana Menon. The same year, he made a donation of INR 6 lakh (approximately USD 3 million today) to the NCPA to establish the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery of Modern Art within the institution’s premises. The gallery was established in 1976 and this portion of Nicholson’s collection remained at the NCPA until 2008. In 1998, over a hundred works from Nicholson’s collection were displayed at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, in an exhibition titled A Collector’s Eye.
Towards the end of his life, Nicholson became increasingly concerned with preserving his collection of paintings and sculptures. Despite requests to the government of Maharashtra to help him acquire land to build a museum, the proposed structure never materialised during his lifetime. The Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation (JNAF) was set up in 2001, immediately after Nicholson’s death, following his request for his assets to be liquidated to fund a private foundation to manage his collection. In 2009, the trustees of the JNAF entered a partnership with the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) to house Nicholson’s collection within the modern art wing of the museum, where it remains today.
JNAF. “Jehangir Nicholson,” 2017. http://jnaf.org/about-us/.
Saffronart. “Remembering Jehangir Nicholson.” Accessed September 25, 2020. https://www.saffronart.com/sitepages/articledetails.aspx?articleid=92.
Sahapedia. “Jehangir Nicholson Museum of Modern Art,” 2018. https://www.sahapedia.org/jehangir-nicholson-museum-of-modern-art.
The Arts Trust. “A Passionate Collector’s Priceless Treasure.” Accessed September 25, 2020. http://www.theartstrust.com/Magazine_article.aspx?articleid=372.