The private obsession Poddar shares with his mother, Lekha, who lives downstairs, is about to become a public boon. What they have collected separately and together over the last 30 years will be exhibited in a new space in the suburb of Gurgaon, what will be, in effect, India's first contemporary art museum.
Spread over two floors and about 700 square meters, or 7,500 square feet, in an office tower, the Devi Art Foundation, as it is called, is due to open on Saturday, with an inaugural show of photography and video called "Still Moving Image." It features the work of 25 artists, a fraction of the roughly 2,000 contemporary pieces that make up Poddar's collection, along with an estimated 5,000 folk and tribal pieces, which are his mother's passion.
India is bursting with commercial art galleries, but Devi is poised to be what the Poddars' home has been for many years: a noncommercial, nonprofit exhibition space for contemporary art from India and the subcontinent. Yamini Mehta, director of modern and contemporary Indian art at Christie's auction house in London, described it as "a truly groundbreaking first for India."
In a way, Devi is the natural next step for a country awash in new wealth, soaring art prices and a prolific crop of artists and collectors.