Mumbai’s Gallery Chemould Hits 50

Gallery Chemould in Mumbai has launched its 50th birthday celebrations with an exhibition titled “Subject of Death.”

Author: Bhakti Chuganee Source: Wall Street Journal

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The exhibition, curated by Geeta Kapur, is the first of five under the title “Aesthetic Bind” and is dedicated to the artist Bhupen Khakhar, who died 10 years ago.

The four other exhibitions in the Aesthetic Bind series, which runs from Sept. 2 to April 7, are titled “Citizen Artist,” “Phantamator,” “Cabinet Closet Wunderkammer” and “Floating World.”

Gallery Chemould was founded by Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy in 1963, but the married couple’s involvement in art goes back much further.

In the 1940s, Mr. Gandhy had a frame shop in south Mumbai’s busy Princess Street. He saw that artists who brought in their work for framing had nowhere to display or sell their pieces. So he decided to offer them his shop as an exhibiting space.

This brought him into contact with celebrated artists such as S.H. Raza and the late Maqbool Fida Hussain and Francis Newton Souza. Mr. Gandhy also began to play a role in building art institutions such as the Bombay Art Society, which along with the J.J. School of Art served as Mumbai’s main art institution before Independence.

As Mr. Gandhy got more involved with the arts, industrialist Cowasji Jehangir invited him to open a gallery in a small space in the building housing his Jehangir Art Gallery. Soon this space became Mr. Gandhy’s business – Gallery Chemould.

His daughter, Shireen, joined Gallery Chemould in 1988, when it celebrated its silver anniversary. She gradually took over the running of the gallery from her parents.

The gallery gained momentum with younger artists who began to depart from the everyday language of art, working in mediums other than canvas, such as video and installations.

Artist Reena Saini Kallat says Ms. Ghandy’s approach to the gallery and her vision has helped artists. “She was always committed to the artists’ work as it evolved. As work became installation based, they were not easy to place or sell, but she carried on with the commitment. I never faced pressure from the gallery,” Ms. Kallat said.

In 2007, Gallery Chemould moved to a loft-like space on Prescott Road. The 5,000 square foot gallery gave way to larger ideas. “Change is the only constant,” said Ms. Ghandy. “Artists were coming out of a certain kind of language and exploding into much bigger realms. A space instantly allows an artist to think big.”

“It allowed for expansive and ambitious shows and also allows for excitement in the art space,” she added.

It wasn’t just Kekoo and Shireen who were active at Chemould. Khorshed Gandhy played helped bring Warli paintings to Bombay’s art scene. The Warli art form was popularized by Jivya Soma Mashe, whose first exhibition at the gallery was in 1975.