“Air India bought its first set of six paintings for a princely sum of ₹87.50 in 1956, from a novice art school graduate, B Prabha,” says 79-year-old, Uttara Parikh who retired 21 years ago after dedicating 32 years to the State-run carrier.
Parikh, as the then Deputy Commercial Director of advertising, promotions, and product development, was part of a team that started curating the art collection at Air India.
Today, Air India has over 40,000 art pieces and collectibles, currently housed at the airlines’ erstwhile headquarters in Mumbai.
Even as the airline has been put on the block for sale, Air India has organised a four-day exhibition of 7,000 artifacts from February 13 at Nehru Science Centre in Mumbai. To showcase its heritage built through the years, there will be no entry fee. On display will be Air India’s collection of paintings, textiles, sculptures, traditional wooden and bronze artwork.
The collection also includes collectibles, in-flight menus, posters, statues, give-aways of iconic ‘Maharajah’ mascot. These were conceptualized at Air India’s in-house design studio at its Mumbai headquarters.
Meera Dass, Secretary, Society of Culture and Environment, said, “In 2016, Air India employees started making an inventory of all art pieces owned by Air India. They realized that this beautiful collection ought to be seen by the public.”
Identifying the ‘treasures’
Dass was instrumental in roping in former employees such as Parikh to identify the ‘treasures of Air India’, for the exhibition.
The exhibition will witness eminent speakers, including those associated with Air India in the past.