New Delhi, March 23 (IANSlife) For decades, Mahinder and Sharad Tak’s sprawling home in Bethesda, near Washington DC, has been a magnet for some of the country’s most well-known social, cultural, and political figures. For nearly half a century, the couple has been instrumental in building strong bridges between South Asia and North America by hosting art exhibitions, musical performances, mushairas or traditional poetry recitals, school tours, and even significant cultural and political fundraisers.
Mahinder was born in Kashmir and grew up in the Himalayan foothills, surrounded not only by lush nature, but also by rich traditions of art, poetry, music, and theatre. She recalls going to the museum on the banks of the Jhelum River in Srinagar with her siblings and grandfather, an Urdu and Persian poetry scholar, to see the collection of miniature paintings. She chose medicine as a career, but her interest in and appreciation for the arts remained a constant in her life.
Mahinder would visit art galleries on her annual trips back to India, always buying one or two pieces for her home. However, it wasn’t until a few years later, in the early 1980s, when she met artist Maqbool Fida Husain on one of his trips to the United States, that her interest grew into a passion and she began to collect Indian art seriously. Husain introduced Mahinder to several Indian artists and gallerists, as well as the only major collectors of South Asian art in America at the time, Chester and Davida Herwitz.
In the decades since, Mahinder has visited artist studios and exhibitions on her trips to Delhi, expanding her network of artists and forming lifelong friendships. She was an early supporter of several artists, including Husain, Manjit Bawa, Jagdish Swaminathan, Sayed Haider Raza, Gulam Rasool Santosh, and others, who frequently reserved the best works from their shows for her to see. However, it was through the Herwitzes that Mahinder realised how art and her growing collection could become a language of cross-cultural understanding.
Several of the Tak family’s artist, poet, and musician friends would stop by as the walls of the Tak home began to fill with an incredible array of South Asian art. Many would stay with the Tak family, displaying or performing in their home. Husain, Manjit Bawa, Krishen Khanna, Arpita and Paramjit Singh, Arpana Caur, and Natvar Bhavsar, to name a few, held exhibitions and events at the Taks, which helped them significantly grow their collector bases. Arts and Antiques magazine named the couple one of the top 100 collectors in the country in 2006.
Mahinder noted, “I have had immense pleasure knowing the greatest Indian and East Asian artists, including musicians and writers, and have made a number of fulfilling friendships through this shared love of art. Art for me is very humane; like my other profession – medicine – it touches people and bridges many gaps […] But most of all, collecting art has allowed me to keep my Indian identity in my home in America. My goal is to pass this rich heritage to our future generation of Indian Americans in the US.”
Luminaries of the National Capital Region’s cultural landscape, the Taks actively fostered the South Asian art and music scene there, supporting artists who went on to achieve international acclaim and bring new attention to South Asian contemporary culture. We are honoured to present in this catalogue a significant selection of works from the Mahinder and Sharad Tak Collection, as well as to highlight the many ways in which this visionary couple has supported, mentored, and inspired generations of artists and collectors in our field.
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