The Bombay Artists from the Jehangir Nicholson Collection


April 26, 2011

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Last Wednesday, art collectors in Mumbai responded favourably to an auction of paintings from the collection of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA).

By Anupa Mehta | DNA

And while a few people were bemused at the starry numbers achieved by some mediocre (and some stellar) works, new benchmarks were set for a few paintings, as in the case of works by the painters from the Progressive Artist Group, and the legendary VS Gaitonde. A trade specialist felt that this sharp price hike could also be a result of the Parsi community coming out in full force to support the fund-raising activity of an institution close to their heart. Jamshed Bhabha, erstwhile driving force of the Centre bequeathed his art collection to the NCPA, and the collection reflects his sensibilities and his times. For those who bought a painting, it was akin to acquiring a slice of history. The auction also marks the foray of the auctioning arm of Pundole art gallery, one of the pioneers in the business.


The entire weekend comprised a surfeit of artistic delights. On Friday, Pandit Jasraj regaled a packed house at a function organised by the Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saab Foundation.Last evening, Dr Bhau Daji Lad museum opened an exhibition titled, Fieldnotes: Tomorrow was here yesterday by Jitish Kallat.

Tasneem Mehta, the curator and honorary director of the museum states that this exhibition is the second in a series of exhibitions that showcase the work of contemporary artists from Sir JJ School of Art.During its five-month run, Kallat will continue to engage and make interventions in the space in an extended conversation with the museum collection, its architecture and its library. Kallat visited the Museum over a period of two years, thinking deeply about its layered history which is intertwined with both the early modern movement in art and the socio-economic development of the city.

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She writes, "As an artist whose work draws its raw material from the city, sifting its dreams and articulating its challenges, Kallat’s work has a profound resonance within the space of the museum.

He has appropriated its architecture and intervened within the display cases creating new readings of the collection and the museum’s history, invigorating his works with a tension that includes both hindsight and foresight. The idyll of the museum which represents the aspirations of the city’s founding fathers stands in sharp contrast to the battle for life that is played out on the city’s streets and forms the underlying theme of Kallat’s works.In describing the politics of space both physically and metaphysically, the artist challenges our perceptions of reality and what appears banal acquires a disturbing hyper reality."

And finally, this evening Kumari Selja, the union minister of culture and housing and poverty alleviation will inaugurate an exhibition titled Homi Bhabha and Modern Indian Art comprising works from the collection of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.In 1947, Homi Bhabha had declared: "We all hope with its newly achieved freedom, India will become the leading country of Asia and one of the leaders in cultural matters, and it can achieve this in the artistic sphere not by a mere repetition of its ancient forms but by the creation of new art forms, possibly through synthesis of the ancient Indian and European traditions in art.

Looking at just past week’s line-up, one hopes that the powers that be will seriously consider giving wings to the department of culture, and consider culture to be a subject deserving of a ministry for itself. Till then, we, the general public, can delight in viewing the gems that are being excavated by private forums and given a fresh lease of life – jewels which form an important part of India’s modern and contemporary history.

The TIFR exhibition: Till June 5 at the NGMA, Mumbai
The Bombay Artists from the Jehangir Nicholson Collection:
Till August 28 at the Chatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sanghralaya