The Patron of Art Collecting - Parvathi Reddy

‘Multi-talented’ may be an understatement when it comes to describing Parvathi Reddy’s broad set of skills and experiences. Sitting in her Jubilee Hills bungalow with floor-to-ceiling artwork by different artists, Parvathi is the picture of a passionate collector. Not only is she the Executive Director of an engineering service company, NAR Infra Pvt Ltd., but she is also a renowned collector of Indian art. She likes to say that she became a collector inadvertently, picking up her first painting from a small artist in  Bengaluru. Now three decades later, Parvathi has become a well-known art connoisseur, and helps to provide a platform for emerging artists. For this dynamic lady, collecting art is an in-depth study in life and physicality. She shares with You & I how she got started collecting art, and how it’s impacted her life.

You’re the executive director of NAR Infra Pvt. Ltd, a member of FICCI Young Leaders, and part of KHUSHII and your own NGO. Could you tell us more about your responsibilities and goals?
I have the responsibility to look after the general administration of NAR Infra, but I am more specialised in finance and the taxation department. The company has 12 different sites all over the country, and we offer a wide range of customised services in the field of pipelines, road works, construction, and electrification.

Apart from this, I was part of the FICCI FLO and the Past Chairperson of Young FICCI Ladies Organisation. I am now part of this forum called FICCI Young Leaders; it is an avenue to involve the young business leaders at the highest level. A few years ago, I did a road show to take the concept of the Third Industrial Revolution in ISB. As part of the paradigm shift, 25-30 young entrepreneurs and industrialists from all over the country attended that event.

I’m also the member of Governing Body of KHUSHII (Kinship for Humanitarian, Social and Holistic Intervention in India), a non-governmental organisation established in 2003 by the legendary cricketer Kapil Dev. I recently hosted a charity art show for KHUSHII and raised over 2 crores to help people gain education, employment, and special skills. Today, the organisation is educating around 25,000 children all over the country. In Hyderabad, we have adopted two government schools and support 4,200 students.

Then our company, NAR Infra has a non-profitable foundation that works at the grassroots level on various issues including education, art, health, and sanitation, amongst others. This year we are focusing on the environment and address the groundwater issue, and next year it will be women empowerment. So each year we pick different concerns and concentrate on those.

How do you balance your family and work?
The balance is challenging to achieve, but it is achievable;

I think almost every woman does that. I don’t think I’m doing anything differently. Every woman I’ve come across, including my maid and my staff, I feel they do much more. I get most of my inspiration from them, seeing them flawlessly juggle between their work and families. They have limited budgets, work from 9-5, go back to their homes, and teach their children. I mean, their lives are unbelievable compared to mine. I feel I am blessed.

My pursuit of having a happy and balanced family and success in my professional career, have been two independent desires of mine. I think with age we all know how to relax while we multi-task. I take life as it comes and do not push myself. If I’m feeling tired, I will take a break and watch a movie or chat with my mother and my mother-in-law.

How important has family support been for you?
It’s vital for me. I have both my mother-in-law and mother living with us, and it’s fantastic when you have older people at home. Both of them take care of the family and, in return, you’re able to take care of them. They look after the children when I am travelling. Honestly, I don’t think that I could have travelled or watched all the movies, eaten all the food outside if it’s not for them. The support I have from my family gives me confidence to remain successful in my professional life.

What was the first experience that got you into the art world and expanded your interest in collecting?
It all started with the purchase of a watercolour painting by a roadside artist for Rs 150, which turned out to serve as the foundation for my collection. This was 29 years ago in Bengaluru, when my husband and I had gone for a walk and we were looking for things to decorate our house. We saw this artist on the road, painting with watercolours on paper. So that was the first piece of art we got. Since then I have been searching for artwork that inspires me. Not only do they prompt questions about my perception of life, but they also drive me to engage with them in a more systematic way. The best pieces fuel my curiosity and make me want to look at them up-close.

But I have always been creative. I used to design clothes and had a label of my own for a short while when I was 19. However, I didn’t continue with it because I had my children to look after. But even today I feel I am creative. I designed my house; the drawings are mine and so are the layout, design, and the interiors. The architect helped me with the technical aspect. That’s how I built my house. So for me, creativity is an evolution. It’s something that has helped me to appreciate art.

Tell us about your favourite work inside your collection.
It’s like asking me which child I love most (laughs). Starting from my first watercolour painting to the most recent of S.H. Raza’s, I have an emotional connection to everything I collect. Besides, different artwork resonates more with me at different times. There are different people who buy art for different reasons. Some buy to adorn their walls and enhance the aesthetics of their space. There are others, like me, who enjoy the entire process of collection – right from learning about the artist and their work to researching and gallery visits. Owning the paintings is just one part of the journey of being a collector.

Right now, both the antique Kilim with the Mughal family tree and Raza’s signature painting from Bindu collection are taking my breath away; it’s on either side of the wall as you enter the house. I was always interested in folklore and classic art, so purchased the hand-painted Cheriyal Scroll Painting. The art form involves a dominance of the colour red in the background, the canvas scroll is made from khadi, and depicts scenes from Hindu mythology. Eventually, when interest in modern art developed, I collected M.F. Husain’s paintings. I also love Laxma Goud’s sculpture he gifted my husband and I on our anniversary. When I first spotted his work, it stopped me in my tracks. I felt an immediate connection to his style and the energy of his work.

The stairs leading to the first floor and the bar area has Thota Vaikuntam’s collection. My husband is fond of his work; his way of portraying rural environs of Telangana, and the textural and personal nuance of his work. Then we recently bought this sculpture-painting from Delhi-based artist and Sanskriti awardee Satish Gupta. It’s from his Om NAMO Shivay collection; he collaborated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has painted the word NAMO on it.

Has the perception of people towards art and artists changed?
Absolutely! Over the years, the meaning of art and the perception towards artists in India has changed considerably. Although our country has always been rich in artistic heritage, distinct culture, and history, the basic needs of people were mere food, clothing, shelter, and education. In comparison, society is now more mature and financially content. That is why art in European countries is socially relevant; people there were better off financially. This is one of the reasons that has helped the West to market its art well.

What plans for this summer?
My younger son Ayush is going to Oxford for a summer school. After this we’ll go for a Balkan tour. The family will then leave for London to watch the ICC Cricket World Cup.

Name one thing that you’re looking forward to?
Definitely to lose more weight (laughs). I’m also looking forward to getting a daughter-in-law, but I don’t think it will happen this year.

What brings you the greatest joy?
Oh, waking up early in the morning and watching my mother and mother-in-law doing yoga in the house. It’s my greatest joy when I see both of them happy and doing healthy things together.      – as told to Anisha

The artist with the art connoisseur G. Ravinder Reddy with Parvathi Reddy