A patron and gallerist of modern Indian art, Kekoo Gandhy is known for establishing India’s first commercial art gallery, Chemould Prescott Road, in Bombay (now Mumbai). Gandhy also played a central role in giving impetus to the Progressive Artists’ Group.
Born in Bombay, Gandhy received his schooling at the Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai, and the University of Cambridge, where his education was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. During this time, he became acquainted with Roger Van Damme, a Belgian manufacturer of picture frames. In 1941, Gandhy and his cousin Dara entered into a partnership with Van Damme at the Chemical Moulding Manufacturing Company, which was later shortened to Chemould. Chemould Frames, which was operated by Gandhy on Princess Street, Bombay, was one of the few establishments offering picture frames in India at the time.
In 1940, Gandhy was appointed honorary secretary of the Bombay Art Society. In the following years, he connected with other European emigres in Bombay such as Emmanuel Schlesinger, Rudolf von Leyden and Walter Langhammer and was introduced to the painters who formed the Progressive Artists’ Group in 1947. Consequently, Chemould Frames became a meeting space for the artists. In 1963, Gandhy formally established Gallery Chemould in a small space on the first floor of the Jehangir Art Gallery.
Gandhy was an active cultural lobbyist and administrator. He played a vital role in the foundation of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, and extended his support and patronage to the Lalit Kala Akademi and its Triennale. He supported dissident activists and cultural freedom during the Emergency (1975–77), and helped establish the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (1989) and the Free Chandramohan Committee (2007). In 2008, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. A documentary of his life, Kekee Manzil, was produced in 2020 by his daughter Behroze Gandhy.
Gandhy died in 2012 in Mumbai.
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