Air India has called for an internal investigation into Jatin Das’s “missing” painting from its collection. Sources from the national carrier claimed that the records pertaining to Das’s “missing” painting are not very clear. The airline added that the matter is being looked into and details should be available shortly. In a letter drafted on June 24 by Das to Chairman and Managing Director of the airline, Ashwani Lohani, Das mentioned reading about the opening of the art gallery in Mumbai in a report dated June 20 in The Indian Express. He requested the airline to send photographs and details of his paintings in the airline’s collection. Responding to the query raised by Das, an official spokesperson of the airline said, “This information is being compiled and would be sent to him shortly. As regards to the painting mentioned in the email communication between artist Pooja Acharya and Jatin Das, the matter is being inquired into and details should also be available shortly.”
In an official mail sent to The Indian Express, Das said he was quizzed about the whereabouts of the particular painting, Flying Apsara, made in 1991 and sold to the carrier when he found it at an exhibition in New Delhi. Some of the excerpts of the mail reads: “One young artist called Pooja Acharya sent me an email regarding the authentication of the image of the work, when she sent me the image of the painting, I found this was the same painting which was commissioned to me by Air India in 1991. She had mentioned that this painting was brought by Sarabjit Singh some 20 years ago from Dhoomimal Art Gallery, New Delhi. The Dhoomimal Art Gallery informed me yesterday that they had nothing to do with this painting. This painting was reproduced in a catalogue of mine in an exhibition in New Delhi, that’s how I (was) shocked. How could this painting go out from the Air India collection.”
However, one of the highly placed sources from the airline said that his painting was last displayed in the Maharaja lounge at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi in 2006. “The lounge later shut down after which all the artwork in the exhibition was moved from one place to the other. The process involved multiple stages of packing and distribution of the artwork. At the same time, Air India merged with Indian Airlines which further changed few of the jurisdictional powers of the collection,” the official said. “Internal investigation has been ordered to trace the movement of the painting and get a detailed record of the incident. For this particular painting, however, the records obtained are not yet clear of its location,” the official added. The carrier has been collecting its list of paintings worldwide to be placed in the Air India museum which is being set up at its Nariman Point headquarters. Officials said as the counting of the inventory is still on, the list is yet to be prepared.
“Air India used to maintain an accession register and sometimes conduct physical verification of these artefacts. Keeping in view the large number of artefacts, many of which are made by eminent painters, it was decided in the beginning of 2016 to conduct a detailed audit of the collection that shall also include physical verification, digitisation, cataloguing, classification, proper storage and putting in place a security system,” an official statement of the airline read. The statement added, “This very major effort was started in March 2016 and is likely to be completed by September 2017 for the collection at Delhi and Mumbai and by end-December 2017 for the entire network. Ultimately, it is planned to bring the entire collection under the Air India Museum of Arts and Crafts that is planned to be set up in due course in Mumbai and preparations are under way.”
The carrier further denied allegations of any other painting or artefact having gone missing from the collection. “The present socio-political situation of the world has called for multiple closure of offices and movement of staff and material to different places. Despite this, the carrier has always maintained a good record of storing details of artwork. What happened with this particular painting should be considered as an exception and not a norm,” the source added. Officials confirmed within a year, the complete list of the carrier’s collection of artwork will be in place. The museum is likely to be inaugurated in September.