Lalit Kala Akademi
Founded as an autonomous organisation in New Delhi in 1954 by the Indian government, the Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) was envisioned as a national academy for the fine arts. Inaugurated by the nation’s first Union Minister for Education, Abul Kalam Azad, the LKA was one of three national institutions — including the Sangeet Natak Akademi (1953) and Sahitya Akademi (1954) — founded to encourage the growth of India’s artistic traditions and promote their dissemination. The LKA’s focus is on the visual arts, including painting and the fine arts, sculpture and graphic design, and folk and indigenous visual traditions. Funded by the Union Ministry of Culture, the LKA helps support Indian artists and ensure the sustainability of their practice through scholarships and fellowship programmes, artists workshops and camps, grants and fundraising programs and events such as the annual National Art Exhibition, New Delhi, and the Triennale, an initiative aimed at broadening perspectives and interactions in the sphere of art.
Patronage and promotion of the arts in post-Independence India had been restricted to private circles and independent societies, such as the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) and the Bombay and Calcutta Art Societies, which were partly responsible for providing international exposure to Indian practitioners. However, the need for an all-Indian federation that performed the same functions as these societies, but on a larger scale and with an expanded scope, led to the founding of the LKA under the Registration of Societies Act XXI (1860) in the Indian Parliament. Under the expanded scope of the newly constituted autonomous body, all forms of art — studio, experimental, folk and indigenous — would fall under its purview.
The objectives of the LKA broadly include the advancement of learning and research in the field of visual arts; publishing art and related literature; facilitation of coordination, collaboration and exchange between artists, artist groups, organisations, institutions and governments; and providing recognition and support to individuals and organisations through scholarships, fellowships and awards. To this end, in 1976, the LKA established artists’ studios at Garhi, New Delhi, named Kala Kuteer, which was conceived as a space where artists could work and exhibit their art. The LKA soon began operating regional centres in several other Indian states, all of which are equipped with studio space as well as storage and exhibition spaces and workshop and residential facilities for visiting artists and fellows.
The LKA’s first Triennale exhibition was held in 1968 and exhibited the works of visual art practitioners from India and abroad. The event, proposed and organised by writer Mulk Raj Anand, has been criticised by scholars and artists as placing greater importance on international outreach rather than equal representation for Indian artists and development of support (educational and other) infrastructure.
The LKA remained an autonomous body till 2015, when its management and administration were taken over by the Government of India following multiple reports of administrative and financial irregularities. As of writing, Uttam Pacharne, who was appointed chairman of the LKA in 2018, serves as its head.
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Lalit Kala Akademi. “Garhi.” Accessed September 25, 2020. https://lalitkala.gov.in/grahi.html.
Perera, Sasanka, and Dev Nath Pathak, eds. Intersections of Contemporary Art, Anthropology and Art History in South Asia: Decoding Visual Words. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.
Press Trust of India. “Govt Takes Over Lalit Kala Akademi’s Management.” Business Standard India, April 6, 2015.https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/govt-takes-over-lalit-kala-akademi-s-management-115040601123_1.html.
Sinha, Gayatri. Art and Visual Culture in India, 1857–2007. Mumbai: Marg Publications, 2009.