Kasauli Art Centre
Established by the artist and writer Vivan Sundaram in 1976 at his ancestral property, Ivy Lodge, in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, India, the Kasauli Art Centre is a space for artists, performers, playwrights, scholars and practitioners to assemble and organise workshops, residencies, lectures and seminars. It is considered to be one of the earliest artist residencies in India, and was a meeting point for most notable Indian artists in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Soon after its inception, the centre emerged as an artist- and writer-led space that generated politically-informed discourse on the trajectory and future of art in the country. In addition to Sundaram, the founding members of the centre comprised Gulammohammed Sheikh, Romi Khosla, Geeta Kapur and Anuradha Kapur. KG Subramanyan served as the president, BN Goswamy as the vice president, KVK Sundaram as the treasurer and Vivan Sundaram as the secretary of the centre.
The centre organised regular workshops, seminars and lectures on-site in Kasauli, as well as a number of exhibitions in urban centres such as New Delhi to showcase the works of artists involved in the residencies and workshops at Kasauli. Notable residents of the centre included Arpita Singh, Gieve Patel, Madhvi Parekh, Manu Parekh, Nalini Malani and Paramjit Singh. Workshops held at the centre also saw the participation of artists such as A Ramachandran, Bhupen Khakhar, Dhruva Mistry, Gogi Saroj Pal, Latika Katt, Laxma Goud, Mrinalini Mukherjee, Nagji Patel, Paritosh Sen, Ranbir Kaleka, Sudhir Patwardhan and Ved Nayar.
Outside of artistic practices, the centre also organised seminars on cinema, Marxist and social theory as well as theatre. The centre also collaborated with the Weavers’ Service Centre to establish a pit loom in 1977 and invited one professional weaver annually to work with and train artists who were not familiar with weaving practices.
The centre was influenced by the artistic ferments taking place elsewhere in the country, especially amongst artists associated with the Faculty of Fine Arts, at the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Vadodara. The centre held a number of exhibitions that reflected the shifts in modern and contemporary art in India, including Place for People (1981), which was based on the concept of figural modernism as an essential aspect of modern art in the country.
In 1982, the art centre established the Journal of Arts and Ideas to discuss ongoing ideas and seminars around Indian aesthetics in Kasauli.
In 1984, a seminal workshop on sculpture was organised at the centre, which saw participation by artists such as KP Krishnakumar, KM Madhusudhan, Alex Mathew, NN Rimzon and Anita Dube from the Kerala Radicals group, Pushpamala N, Sehdev Ladi and Prithpal Singh. The workshop culminated in the exhibition Seven Young Sculptors (1985), curated by Vivan Sundaram, which took place at Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi.
With the advent of auction houses and private galleries in India from the 1990s onwards, the centre for contemporary Indian art shifted to the western coast of Mumbai. The art centre organised its last workshop in 1995, following which, it remained suspended for nearly two decades. In 2016, following the establishment of the Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation, the centre was re-envisioned as the Kasauli Art Project, with the aim of focusing on cross-disciplinary residencies and projects for artists.
As of writing, the project is under the aegis of the foundation and their programming to support the arts.
Ahmed, Sabih. “Landing Imaginaries: An Interview with Geeta Kapur.” Sarai Reader 09 (2013). Accessed June 21, 2022. http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/id/eprint/7633/1/saraireader09-projections-web.pdf#page=262.
Dhanoa, Belinder. “Kasauli Art Centre.” Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://ssaf.in/publications/kasauli-art-centre/.
Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram Archive. “Kasauli Art Centre.” Asia Art Archive. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://aaa.org.hk/en/collections/search/archive/geeta-kapur-and-vivan-sundaram-archive-kasauli-art-centre/sort/title-asc.
Space 118. “Kasauli Art Centre.” Accessed May 16, 2022. https://www.space118.com/mapping-residencies/kasauli-art-centre/.
Wyma, Kathleen L. The Discourse and Practice of Radicalism in Contemporary Indian Art, 1960-1990. PhD Dissertation, Faculty of Graduate Studies, The University of British Columbia, 2007.