When Kiran Nadar made one of her first purchases as an art collector in 1998, her husband Shiv, in her own words, was “horrified”. Being the founder of IT major HCL Technologies who went on to become one of India’s richest men, the price of the painting, by well-known painter Rameshwar Broota (b 1941), was the least of his concerns. It was the subject matter of the painting that bothered him. The painting, a 1982 oil-on-canvas titled Runners, depicted two muscular men in the nude. It appeared that one of the bald, ghostly forms had had his eyes gouged out, revealing him in a state of immeasurable despair. Adjacent to these unheroic-looking men, was a carcass, hung upside down, recalling the sight of slaughterhouses selling meat. The form of the carcass seemed to blur the distinction between an animal and human.
“How can we have the painting of a male nude in the house? We’ve got a young daughter, and my mother lives with us,” Shiv told his wife. Kiran Nadar, the founder and chairperson of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, recollected this anecdote in an interview published by KNMA. The painting, part of a 2014 retrospective at the museum, finally made it to their collection, once Shiv viewed it in person at the artist’s studio at New Delhi’s Triveni Kala Sangam, which he joined as the head of department in 1967.