Suresh Dominic’s homes are a true representation of his passion and dedication to collecting. He leaves no space untouched by his treasure trove of artworks, both contemporary and modern, and artefacts from all over the world. A patron of the local art scene and avid collector, what began as a hobby has now become his way of life.
Read on to learn more….
SURESH DOMINIC IN HIS APARTMENT IN COLOMBO, JC RATHNAYAKE IN THE BACKGROUND
Tell us a little about yourself...
I studied at St Josephs and later continued my education in the United Kingdom before moving back to Sri Lanka, where I worked in the IT sector for 35 years in companies including Informatics, John Keells and Interblocks. Today I am happily retired and sit on the boards of five public companies.
Where do you live, and how did you find your space? What makes it a home to you?
Currently I live in Colombo in an apartment complex where I occupy four apartments that house my collection of art and artefacts. I used to reside in a house but moving to a complex which was much smaller has meant that in terms of locking up and travelling it has made life much easier. In terms of security for my collection this is a much better place. My art and my collections make these spaces home to me.
L TO R PRIYANTHA UDAGEDARA, ISMETH RAHEEM, GEORGE BEVEN, JAGATH WEERASINGHE, ANUP VEGA, HASHAN COORAY, PALA POTHUPITIYE
L TO R HASHAN COORAY, PALA POTHUPITIYE
How have you been coping in quarantine? What has been keeping you inspired?
The 1st phase of the quarantine lockdown was useful in the sense I was able to do so many things I always kept postponing. During the lockdown I was also hooked on the art auction sites and managed to buy a few pieces.
You start realising what is important in life, in terms of people whom you have not been keeping in touch with, so I also spent my time connecting with friend abroad. Things that were important before are now not so important anymore, especially the rat race. I also decided to retire this year and focus more on my collecting.
Where do you think your interest in collecting comes from?
When I was studying in the UK I used to visit the museums, galleries and stately homes and became very interested in art. All I could afford at this point were prints from the galleries.
My mother was a collector, not of painting, but of artefacts. She used to collect Chinese porcelain and every time she travelled she would bring some artefact back with her. In terms of art I learnt a lot from my aunt in the UK who was an avid collector. My mother’s mother used to paint on glass and I recall her pieces hanging in our Jaffna house.
When did you first start acquiring art?
I started acquiring art in the mid-nineties after I joined John Keells; the Directors there were also collectors and the George Keyt Foundation was located in these offices.
The first piece I bought was a 1942 George Keyt. It is a published piece and it cost me LKR 50,000, that was a lot of money 25 years ago but I still bought it, I loved it.
I started going to the Kala Pola and that’s’ where I started buying more art, many of those artists are now well known and my taste has since varied.
I remember first seeing an Ivan Peiris and feeling even a child could paint such a work but today I have learnt more about the modern art and absolutely love his work. I later started collecting from the galleries as well.
What was the first piece you fell in love with, and why?
The first piece I fell in love with was a Salvador Dali work called Lincoln Dali Vision, a work consisting of little paintings that when you squinted your eyes you could see the face of Lincoln. It was a limited-edition print that my aunt bought and it was signed by him. I saw it in the early eighties and I was so impressed by the piece, it had cost my aunt more than my fees worth.
What are some of the most sentimental or meaningful pieces in your collection?
My large Priyantha Udagedara work that hangs behind my dining table, two Claessens I purchased for a steal from Paradise Road Galleries at their very first exhibition of Claessen works, my Rajni Perera’s and my Hashan Cooray’s. But I come back to my Priyantha Udagedara, it is a favourite of mine and everyone who visits my home.
For new collectors, do you have any advice you wish to impart? Do you have a collecting ethos or philosophy that you want to share?
An artist does not need to be well known for me to buy their work. The main thing is to look not only at the piece but to look at his portfolio and to see whether the individual has potential to be an established artist. I take Hashan Cooray as an example, to see how he evolved so considerably in the short time he has been on the scene. In terms of established artists, I would look at whether they have presented international exhibitions or are part of museum collections.
In Sri Lanka art is so affordable in comparison to other parts of the world and it is a good investment. For me art is the best financial investment as it stands; you’re talking about 30% plus per year. As the government has taken off capital gains this is a very good option, rather than looking at deposits where you get hardly any interest. I would even hope that someone starts an art fund where curated collections can be invested in and that would promote the local art market considerably.
I must say anything anyone has bought from Saskia Fernando Gallery has today appreciated in value and every time a new exhibition is presented we are seeing an appreciation in prices. People have this mindset that galleries must be making money without appreciating the sustainability that galleries bring to the art scene. Unfortunately locally we only have Saskia Fernando Gallery and people do not realise how much investment and time it takes for the gallery to do what they are doing. SFG takes artists to a different level and we should have more representatives like this. People misunderstand the work of the gallery and how much more you do beyond exhibitions. I feel corporate and the government must also invest in the art industry.
Favourite museum or creative space for inspiration?
MOMA, the Metropolitan and the National Gallery in London.
Who do you want to collect next?
I would love an MF Hussain.
Who are your all-time favourite artists?
Rajni Perera, Priyantha Udagedara, Pala Pothupitiye, Anoli Perera, Sujeewa Kumari, Ivan Peiris, George Keyt, Richard Gabriel, Geoffrey Beling and Lionel Wendt.