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Most professors take up running or theatre as a hobby. Not so Nirmalya Kumar, professor of marketing at London Business School and co-director of the Aditya Birla India Centre there. He is an avid collector of Indian art.
So much so that London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) has given the strategy and marketing specialist an honorary fellowship in recognition of his contribution to Asian art. Prof Kumar lectures and writes about the subject as well.
Prof Kumar has put together one of the largest private collections of art by Jamini Roy, frequently considered to be the father of modern art in India, as well as paintings by Rabindranath Tagore, artist and writer, who was the first Asian to win a Nobel Prize - for literature in 1913.
Nirmala Rao, pro-director for learning and teaching at Soas described Prof Kumar as “a passionate supporter of the arts”. She continued: “Rather than simply seeing it as his personal collection, he sees himself as a custodian to help increase the visibility of these artists and the understanding of the context, part of India’s freedom struggle in the early 20th century, in which modern Indian art emerged.”
In accepting the accolade, Prof Kumar said that when he was educated in India in the 1970s and early 80 “it was difficult as a teenager to be truly proud of being Indian. For many educated youth it was a time to escape the perceived constraints of India and go West.” After living in the US and Switzerland, Prof Kumar made his European home in London. “It is against this personal context that my support for Indian arts should be understood. It is a quest for the meaning of identity in a globalised world.”