It is a journey that began when people came to pawn family heirlooms at the jewellers. A sixth-generation jeweler, Ajit Gadgil, couldn’t help but admire the artefacts and realise some of these were rare pieces of craftsmanship and needed to be preserved. He found it impossible to melt these priceless pieces for the metal and started retaining some of them. Similarly, people brought in old traditional ‘Paithani’ silk sarees that were woven with gold zari. The norm was to burn the saree and extract the gold but Gadgil held on to some of them, one was close to 200 years old. This was the start of a collector’s journey.
An understanding of legacy and heritage came naturally to Gadgil. A retail jewelry brand with a legacy of 190 years, P N Gadgil has been the first port of call for those wanting to buy any kind of gold and silver jewelry for generations of Maharashtrians. The brand especially enjoys a cult following in Pune. The first-day business page of the year 1832 (Account) is still preserved with the Gadgil family.
Over the last 25 years, Gadgil was quietly building a collection comprising artefacts, paintings, sculptures, silverware, jewelry, textiles, lamps, prints, lithographs, photographs, vinyl records and paintings. Around 1,500 such items have found their way into a museum. Gadgil added paintings to his collection with works of MF Hussain, SH Reza, Manjit Bawa, F N Souza, N S Bendre, Raja Ravi Varma, Tyeb Mehta, Jamini Roy, K H Aara, K K Hebbar, J Swaminathan and Sadanand Bakre.
Ajit Gadgil, founder of P N Gadgil & Sons, (a de-merged entity of P N Gadgil) and the museum, says he wanted to share the joy he gets from his collection with everyone, especially to offer the younger generation a glimpse into the country’s rich culture and heritage. So. he decided to put it all together and set up the Zapurza Museum of Art and Culture.
The museum has been built on an eight-acre plot Pune. Its name is inspired by a Marathi poem by Marathi poet, ‘Keshavsut’ alias Krishnaji Keshav Damle.
Gadgil has engaged with the artist community by creating mini art galleries at his gold retail showrooms. He offered space to artists to showcase their art from a dedicated space in the shops. This platform has been used by many budding artists. For him, Zapurza was about taking this theme further along with an immersive and holistic experience of Indian culture.
Raju Sutar, curator, Zapurza Museum, says this kind of collection needs passion and madness and Gadgil had this in abundance. He spent seven years pursuing a single print of Raja Ravi Varma and has collected 2,000 prints to date.
According to Sutar, whatever has been displayed in the museum is only around 30-35% of the Gadgil collection. They will have to keep rotating the exhibits to be able to showcase it all, he adds.