Photographer, art collector and numismatist Lance Dane passed away at a private hospital in Mumbai on Wednesday morning leaving behind a treasure trove of antiques, paintings and precious coins. He was 89.

The Australian-born art enthusiast had been living in India for decades collecting rare pieces from all over the country. In the absence of immediate family to look after the invaluable collection, this rich slice of India's heritage needs urgent attention.

“I have seen a large part of his collection. It's a national treasure and worth millions. The State should acquire it. You need to carry out due diligence and whoever is the custodian of it must honour this man's passion,” Rajeev Sethi, noted designer and Mr. Dane's friend told The Hindu on the phone.

Mr. Dane was a close associate of writer Mulk Raj Anand. “He did the visual archive for the Festival of India. He has the largest collection of photographs by a single man ever and the largest collections of coins. He gave a large part of his collection to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts,” Mr. Sethi said.

“He died without anybody”

“He was a helpless old man. He died without anybody. It is sad that his lifelong passion is not shared. It is lying without any care. I feel the effort should be made to [conserve it],” Mr, Sethi said.

Old dusty paintings lay stashed away behind bookshelves, propped up against pieces of furniture and behind a solitary bed in Mr. Dane's living room on Wednesday. Stone and wood sculptures were everywhere, on the floor, in every nook and corner of the room. The balcony was full of such antiques.

“It was his dream to place his collection in a museum and we will do it. He wanted a numismatic [for his coin collection],” Raju Bhatt, Mr. Dane's foster son who arrived in Mumbai from Delhi told The Hindu.

“His main intention was to give his collection back to the country. That was his primary goal. He wanted children and students to learn from it,” a friend, who did not wish to be quoted, said.

Mr. Dane is understood to have agreed upon giving his coin collection to the Hinduja Foundation in Mumbai. However, his close associates, young men who stayed with him at his apartment in Mumbai and looked after him, said Mr. Dane was unhappy and felt that he was given the short shrift.

“He [Mr. Dane] wanted his collection to be in a place where people can enjoy and learn,” said Satish Gupta, a photographer who trained under Mr. Dane and has been living with him for years.

Another helper Sanjay Gejge said: “He thought if he gave his collection to the Foundation, they would turn it into a museum. This very morning four persons came home to parcel off some art pieces.”

Despite repeated attempts, the Foundation could not be reached for a comment. A representative of the IndusInd Bank, the Hinduja-owned private lender, present at the crematorium, did not comment on the matter.

Mr. Dane's house itself resembles a mini-museum, where art works occupy much of the living space. However, the house is in a run-down condition and the pieces are uncared for.

“This is really sad. One cannot do anything about it. The government must [pay heed],” Mr. Sethi said.

The State government is learnt to have sent the police to guard the place till further measures are taken.