NYC’s Delhi Art Gallery Opens First International Gallery

New York, N.Y.  India’s Delhi Art Gallery has announced the opening of its first international venture, a stunning, 7000-square-foot gallery space in the iconic Fuller Building on New York’s Madison Avenue, beginning March 18, 2015. Its first exhibition, India Modern, will preview on the evening of March 17 for select, by-invitation only, guests.  I was so pleased to attend the incredible press conference today.

PyneG31 PyneG31
Ganesh Pyne.  Untitled – 2004, Dry pastel & conte on paper, 17.0″ x 16.0″
(43.2 x 40.6 cm).  Signed: Bengali/Lower Right.

‘Indian art has had very little space in America,’ Delhi Art Gallery’s India-based managing director, Ashish Anand, said. ‘We hope to significantly increase its presence and look forward to sharing Indian modern art with the rest of the world.’ He added, ‘Indian modern art has much that is in common with twentieth century artists elsewhere in the West. The unique work of Indian modern artists has gained increased recognition in the West in the recent past – in the United States, particularly, New York city – one of the reasons we wanted to showcase our extraordinary collection here.’

Established in 1993, Delhi Art Gallery is India’s largest repository of modern masters representing the gamut of art practice in the twentieth century. It has established its presence by building what is arguably the largest collection of Indian modern and contemporary art of museum-quality, which parallel or closely follow contemporary movements in the West, placing them in the same context as Pablo Picasso, Matisse, the German Expressionists, the Paris or New York School.

BawaM13

Manjit Bawa. Untitled – 2000, Oil on canvas, 55.2″ x 65.2″
(140.2 x 165.6 cm). 
Signed: English/Verso.

The gallery’s collection traces the genesis of Indian modernism to the nineteenth century and continues through important movements such as the revivalist Bengal School or Santiniketan’s thrust towards modernism. Artists in Calcutta and Bombay picked up the mantle next, such as the Progressive Artists’ Group in Bombay, which closely followed Western art but within an Indian context, giving rise to such artists as F. N. Souza, M. F. Husain and S. H. Raza, and in Calcutta, a host of significant modernists. An entire generation of younger artists to follow began to engage with a more rooted contemporary idiom, etching the modernist movements in places like Baroda or the south.

The gallery has showcased numerous historically significant exhibitions that have been lauded for its curation, range and the sheer number of landmark works. They have consisted of artist retrospectives, those tracing art movements such as Mumbai Modern and Continuum on the Bombay Progressives, The Art of Bengal and numerous thematic exhibitions, such as Indian Landscapes, Indian Abstracts, Indian Divine and Indian Portraits or The Naked and the Nude, besides its signature, bi-annual Manifestation’s series that presents a select collection of modern art by seventy-five of the most important Indian artists. Each exhibition is accompanied by a handsome book of art scholarship that stands out for their high production quality, featuring scholarship by some of the leading art scholars in the country and rare, archival material from the gallery’s collection.

SouzaFN716

F. N. Souza. Mother and Child – 1961, Oil on canvas, 44.2″ x 38.2″
(112.3 x 97.0 cm). Signed: English/Top Left.

With galleries in New Delhi and Mumbai, the latter in a historically restored building in the artistic district of Kala Ghoda, and now one in New York, besides annual participation in a number of leading national and international art fairs – such as Art Basel, Hong Kong, Art 15, London, Art Stage Singapore, and India Art Fair, New Delhi, (where Delhi Art Gallery has participated in recent years with the largest pavilion and most rigorously curated display, topped in the January 2015 edition with a 11000 sq. ft. space and showcasing close to a thousand artworks) – Delhi Art Gallery continues to expand the reach of Indian modern art to newer locations and art audiences.

In New York, Delhi Art Gallery’s director will be Neil Blumstein, the manager will be John J. McGurk and the art advisor will be Josheen Oberoi.

India, of course, has had a long, rich and continuous tradition of art making. But when did modernism enter this lexicon? What was the inflexion point for the transition from the classical to what we perceive to be modern? Did it parallel or shadow inferences from Western Modernism? And what trajectories have its artists followed in that journey?

KumarR51

Ram Kumar. Untitled – 1970, Oil on canvas, 49.7″ x 49.7″
(126.2 x 126.2 cm). Signed: English/Verso.

Delhi Art Gallery’s debut exhibition at its first international gallery outside India (where it has three galleries in New Delhi and Mumbai) is a response to some of these questions, as it defines the context of modernism and what it meant to the artists of the twentieth century. These include India’s most significant and best-known artists, most of whom studied in art schools in India, were influenced by movements in Europe and America, travelled overseas on fellowships or to study and exhibit and, thus, became part of defining moments of the West’s Modernism. Thereby began a discourse and practice that would shape the emergence of modern art in the Indian subcontinent.

Artists such as Rabindranath Tagore, Amrita SherGil and Jamini Roy became known as modernists for their deliberate attempt to create a language of Indian art that was particular to India. All three artists are considered ‘national treasures’ whose works cannot travel outside the country or be exported. All three were reacting, in some measure, to the revivalism of an Indian trope that rejected academic realism, a style that had become prevalent under British rule over India. It was this that the Bombay-based Progressives Artists’ Group (formed in 1947) took to a head when it brought together a group of artists who, in time, came to spearhead its modernist movement using the prevalent Western ideology.

The six founding members – F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, M.F. Husain, K.H. Ara, S.K. Bakre, H.A. Gade and several of their associates are all represented as part of India Modern: Narratives of 20th Century Indian Art. But the exhibition goes beyond the trope of just the Progressives, shedding light on artists practicing in different art centers that found a reflection for local concerns within their vocabulary. Those in Bengal resorted to depictions of violence, loss and anxiety. In Baroda, concerns with the everyday stimulated their discourse. The short-lived Group 1890 became part of the exciting chronicle of abstraction and of evolving a more authentic Indian art. In Cholamandal, folk narratives entered the art practice and New Delhi became an important center for art commerce as well as experimentation, within which the neo-tantra movement gained prominence.

These and other considerations make India Modern a groundbreaking exhibition. It brings close to a hundred significant artworks, including some rare early works by the forty-two artists on feature here. They are some of the most important voices from the world of Indian art, whose contribution has enriched its discourse. They form part of auctions and are ardently collected. Their range extends over different mediums, geographical locations, themes and stylistic considerations, and they have contributed to the development of Indian modernism as it is recognized today. Their narrative has a strong local context even while the language finds a resonance anywhere in the world.

In an attempt to decipher the particular nuances of each artwork in the exhibition, a comprehensive catalogue featuring scholarship on individual artworks, paintings and sculptures and a timeline of Western and Indian modernism has been specially prepared to inform viewers and collectors. The exhibition marks the first comprehensive attempt to provide an overview of the modern art movement in twentieth century India. Curated from the extensive Delhi Art Gallery collection, India’s largest archive of Indian modern art of over thirty thousand artworks from over two centuries, India Modern offers a glimpse into the work of India’s most significant and trailblazing artists.

India Modern will open to the public on March 18 and will be on view until June 6, 2015. Artists represented in the India Modern exhibition include:

  • Sultan Ali (b. 1920, d. 1990)
  • Ambadas (b. 1922, d. 2012)
  • H. Ara (b. 1914, d. 1985)
  • K. Bakre (b. 1920, d. 2007)
  • Manjit Bawa (b. 1941, d. 2008)
  • Dhanraj Bhagat (b. 1917, d. 1988)
  • Bikash Bhattacharjee (b. 1940, d. 2006)
  • Sakti Burman (b. 1935)
  • Avinash Chandra (b. 1931, d. 1991)
  • Jogen Chowdhury (b. 1939)
  • Sunil Das (b. 1939)
  • Bimal Dasgupta (b. 1917, d. 1995)
  • Dharamnarayan Dasgupta (b. 1939, d. 1997)
  • Biren De (b. 1926, d. 2011)
  • A. Gade (b. 1917, d. 2001)
  • Laxma Goud (b. 1940)
  • Ganesh Haloi (b. 1936)
  • K. Hebbar (b. 1911, d. 1996)
  • Somnath Hore (b. 1921, d. 2006)
  • F. Husain (b. 1913, d. 2011)
  • George Keyt (b. 1901, d. 1993)
  • Krishen Khanna (b. 1925)
  • Khemraj (b. 1934, d. 2000)
  • Ram Kumar (b. 1925)
  • Anjolie Ela Menon (b. 1940)
  • Rabin Mondal (b. 1929)
  • Akbar Padamsee (b. 1928)
  • Laxman Pai (b. 1926)
  • Gieve Patel (b. 1940)
  • Jeram Patel (b. 1930)
  • Ganesh Pyne (b. 1937, d. 2013)
  • Sohan Qadri (b. 1932, d. 2011)
  • H. Raza (b. 1922)
  • Jehangir Sabavala (b. 1922, d. 2011)
  • R. Santosh (b. 1929, d. 1997)
  • Himmat Shah (b. 1933)
  • N. Souza (b. 1924, d. 2002)
  • G. Subramanyan (b. 1924)
  • Swaminathan (b. 1928, d. 1994)

Jogen_Chowdhury_-_Kolkata_2012-10-03_0460Jogen Chowdhury is an eminent Indian painter. He lives and works in Santiniketan.
He graduated from the Government College of Art & Craft, Kolkata and subsequently
at Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris in the year 1967. His most famous
paintings are in ink, water colour and pastel. He has painted in oil medium as well.
Photographed at The Academi of Fine Arts, Kolkata.

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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