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Bombay Art Society turns 125, exhibition celebrates the milestone

An exhibition celebrates Bombay Art Society's 125 years with over hundred award-winning artworks that trace its history in the metropolis

Bombay View by SH Raza won the gold medal and VV Oak's Prize in 1948
Bombay View by SH Raza won the gold medal and VV Oak's Prize in 1948

Over the past few years, painter and art historian Suhas Bahulkar has been making rounds of libraries and museums in Mumbai, Vadodara and Pune to sift through art catalogues and collections. His attempt is to trace the journey of the Bombay school of art, which finds its roots in Bombay Art Society, founded in 1888. The research on one of the oldest artistic institutions of India has made it to a two-volume book. The first, titled The Bombay Art Society (1888-2016): History and Voyage, will be launched at the eponymous exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), this Friday. It celebrates the society's 125 years of existence, during which it has hosted 124 exhibitions.

Princess donating earrings to Brahmin boy  by AH Muller won the gold medal in 1911.  Pic courtesy/Sangali Museum
Princess donating earrings to Brahmin boy  by AH Muller won the gold medal in 1911.  Pic courtesy/Sangali Museum

Blast from the past
Originally founded to encourage the artistically inclined British in India, Bombay Art Society hosted its first exhibition in 1889 at the Old Secretariat building. Within five years of its establishment, it began to host exhibitions by Indian artists, including eminent names like Raja Ravi Varma, Ganapathi Mhatre and MF Pithawala. "In 1894, the society introduced medals (gold, silver, bronze) and the Governor's Prize for artworks. A panel of artists would judge the works every year. Receiving a gold medal was prestigious," shares Vasudeo Kamath, award-winning artist and president of the society.

Suhas Bahulkar
Suhas Bahulkar

What's on view
The exhibition includes over 120 award-winning paintings, sculptures and installations along with artworks that trace the important historical movements in Indian modern art. One such landmark is Amrita Sher-Gil's Young Girls (1932), a pioneer in the history of modern Indian art. Meanwhile, a sculpture of a dancer by GK Mhatre that received gold medal in 1926 will be displayed here for the first time.

Pappa, a bronze sculpture by  NL Sonawdekar won the  Governor's Prize of Rs 125 in 1960
Pappa, a bronze sculpture by  NL Sonawdekar won the  Governor's Prize of Rs 125 in 1960

The exhibition also includes text panels from Bahulkar's book. He says, "Through autobiographies, old newspaper cuttings and conversations with people from the artworld, I've collected information about the work processes of eminent artists and anecdotes about how competitive they were sometimes."

The exhibition will be inaugurated by sculptor Sadashiv Sathe, art connoisseur Pheroza Godrej, CSMVS director general Dr Sabyasachi Mukherjee and art historian Professor Deepak Kannal.

FROM: February 10 (opening at 6 pm) to March 26, 11 am to 6 pm
AT: NGMA, MG Road, Fort.
CALL: 22881969

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