Delhi Art Gallery in Mumbai
The recently-opened iconic Delhi Art Gallery (DAG) is already creating a buzz with Mumbai Modern, an exhibition showcasing artworks by the Progressive Artists' Group. Soma Das offers a walk-through of the gallery to get a sense of this new space and the intense-yet-sensitised restoration that ensured the structure, in which it is housed, retained its heritage imprint
The Delhi Art Gallery (DAG), located in the capital, is known for its collection of over 30,000 works including masterpieces by artists from the Bengal School and artists from all over the country. The gallery was started in 1993, and the collection took shape by 1996. Over the years, DAG has held thematic exhibitions, retrospectives and bi-annual shows where Indian modern art is showcased. Its collection spans works that include early moderns, European artists and the spectrum of Indian modernism, from its genesis to high modernism and the works of modern masters whose careers have included the 21st century. Their inaugural exhibition in the city, Mumbai Modern, is a retrospective of the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) that originated here in 1947.
The exhibition is a celebration of Mumbai, and features artworks by FN Souza, SH Raza, MF Husain, KH Ara, Tyeb Mehta, Krishen Khanna, Akbar Padamsee and others. DAG also puts the spotlight on the lesser-known artists from the PAG including HA Gade, SK Bakre, Mohan Samant and Bal Chhabda. All artworks are on sale.
Kishore Singh, curator, Delhi Art Gallery, was clear about the choice of city, “Mumbai is an important hub for art and culture and a natural fit for DAG’s large collection of 20th century Indian modern art. We couldn’t think of any other city that would respond as positively to the DAG collection as Mumbai would. The Mumbai art scene is vibrant, and we hope to be part of it while also enhancing the viewer experience and culture.”
One of the major challenges to set up the gallery was finding a suitable location especially since DAG required a space that would be in consonance with the nature and quality of its collection and exhibitions. “It took us time to select the right location. We are fortunate to be in Kala Ghoda in a standalone building that does justice to the art we are showing,” explains Singh.
Keeping the heritage intact
Presently, DAG is located in a multi-storey heritage structure that is between 100 to 150 years old. The ground and first floor consist of exhibition galleries that are reserved for the Mumbai Modern exhibition. The second floor houses part of the gallery’s permanent collection and the gallery offices are also located on this floor. Private lounges on the first and second floors have also been created, specially for visitors. The third floor has the gallery’s sculpture courtyard-cum-auditorium. Renovating the space, while ensuring the historicity of the structure was not lost, was a task, admits Singh: “A historic building offers several changes, the most important of which is being faithful to the architecture of the building. This is what took the design firm Morphogenesis one-and-a-half-years to achieve.”
The work involved highlighting the facade and motifs from it were used to create patterns for the screens used for the private lounges inside. “For the galleries, we have retained only the main walls and a few windows that allow in a natural, ambient light, while the staircase becomes a design highlight.
The permanent collection is hung from panels that can be moved, an innovation we have used earlier in our galleries in New Delhi. The attic on the fourth floor is a lovely space for sculptures, and for conducting talks and discussions,” reveals Singh.
Till December 31, 10.30 am to 7 pm;
At Delhi Art Gallery, Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort.
Call 49222700; log on to www.delhiartgallery.com
Look out for...
DAG intends to curate special shows for Mumbai and bring down exhibitions that have opened in New Delhi. This includes iconic exhibitions of Indian Landscapes and Indian Portraits that track the history of these genres over three centuries, The Printed Picture on four centuries of Indian printmaking, artists’ retrospectives as well as their bi-annual Manifestation series.
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