Kito de Boer had been working at McKinsey for seven years when he moved to Delhi in 1992 to open up the company’s India office. “The reality of the job is that it’s pretty much all-consuming,” he says. “Or it risks becoming that. What is work—and what is not work—becomes quite blurred.”

And yet, together with his wife Jane, de Boer began to build a collection of modern Indian art that eventually surpassed 1,000 objects. It was a process that entailed criss-crossing the country to visit artists’ studios, private collectors’ homes, and far-flung galleries.

Now he’s beginning to sell it. On March 18, Christie’s in New York will auction 83 works, with an additional 70 lots up for sale in an online auction that runs from March 13 through March 20. The high estimate of the combined auctions is $4.9 million.

“We now have two houses, one in London and one in Dubai, and we’ve filled them with the bulk of our art,” says de Boer, who retired from McKinsey in 2014 and is now founder and managing director at Amersham Advisors. “We still have a few hundred objects in storage though, and that feels like a shame.”

That, combined with the fact that you eventually “want to have less stuff and declutter and simplify,” he says, meant that it was time to begin to sell. “This is the first step,” de Boer says. “It’s a life-stage thing.”

Moment of Truth
To begin with, collecting Indian art also didn’t fit with the de Boer family’s lifestyle.

“When we went to India, we were in that sort of middle-class young household formation, focused on kids and nappies and all that stuff,” he says. “In addition, we were trying to process living in a completely alien and overwhelming environment. We didn’t go into it thinking we would become art collectors.”

The de Boers bought their first work—a small painting by the artist Ganesh Pyne—for about $5,000 in 1993 after being invited to a social event at a contemporary art gallery. “That was the starting point,” de Boer says, “but we also thought it would be the end point.”

At the time, $5,000 was a lot of money for the family, and he was working the aforementioned, infamously long hours. But “we did have walls to fill,” he says, and so, with Jane leading the charge, the couple spent two years buying art until they ran out of wall space and reached what de Boer calls “the moment of truth.” Despite having nowhere to put additional art, they continued to buy. “Passion became an obsession,” he says.

Top of the Pyramid
For many executives in de Boer’s position, the time-intensive nature of collecting art—or, for that matter, doing anything other than work—would have taxed his productivity.

First « 1 2 3 » Next