National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi
Inaugurated in1954 by then-Vice President Dr S Radhakrishnan and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) is India’s first public art gallery. One of the largest galleries of modern art in the world, NGMA’s collection maps the course of art in India, starting from 1856, and consists of 17,000 works of art, including paintings, prints, installations and photographic art, by more than 2000 Indian and international artists. The butterfly-shaped and domed building — called Jaipur House, and originally designed by the Blomfield brothers as the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur in Lutyens Delhi — was chosen to house this pioneering institution. The NGMA and its subsequently created branches come under the administration of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
Before the establishment of a national exhibition space, art patronage in India was controlled by private bodies; one of them was the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS), established in 1938. However, with the emergence of similar organisations, notably the Bombay and Calcutta Art Societies, the AIFACS’ position as a central art body diminished. At the All-India Art Conference in Kolkata in 1949, peopled by eminent figures such as Stella Kramrisch, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Atul Bose and Nihar Ranjay Ray, the need for a pan-Indian body that would supersede the authority of independent art societies was universally acknowledged. With the seeds for a national art institution planted, a resolution was passed to expedite the fulfillment of such a project and to revitalise the neglected National Museum, New Delhi.
When the NGMA was established five years later, it included clearly articulated set of objectives on acquiring and preserving Indian artworks, developing and maintaining galleries for permanent display, organising special exhibitions in both India and abroad, developing a centre for documentation, education and research and a specialised multimedia library and organising lectures, seminars and conferences to promote inquiry in the fields of art history, art criticism, art appreciation and museology. The first exhibition held at the NGMA after its formal inauguration featured sculptures by artists such as Sankho Chaudhuri, Ramkinker Baij, Dhanraj Bhagat and Sarbari Roy Chowdhury. The exhibition was curated by the German art historian Hermann Goetz, who also served as the NGMA’s first director.
Since its inception, NGMA has organised several exhibitions, displaying the works of a number of prominent and emerging artists. Some notable exhibitions include Henry Moore: Sculptures, Drawings and Graphics (1987); Thresholds: Contemporary French Art (1995); The Self and the World: An Exhibition of Indian Women Artists (997); Contemporary Art from Korea (1999); Satyajit Ray — from Script to Screen: A Suite of Photographs by Nemai Ghosh (2003); Vanishing Points (2007); Homai Vyarawalla: A Retrospective (August–October 2010); Amrita Sher-Gil: Story of First Indian Modernist (2018); Roopantar (2018–19) and Shashwat Maharathi – the Eternal Seeker (2019).
The gallery has a permanent display of works — chronologically arranged — of eminent artists such as Raja Ravi Varma, Amrita Sher-Gil, VS Gaitonde, KK Hebbar, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta and Krishen Khanna, to name just a few.
The NGMA opened branches in Mumbai and Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) in 1996 and 2009, respectively. In 2009, it also opened a new wing that expanded its floor area to six times its original spread. More renovations and expansions have been undertaken to allow the entire building (including the fifty rooms previously used for storage) to be used as exhibition spaces. The gallery also houses a conservation lab, an auditorium and a preview theatre. Additionally, NGMA also hosts art classes every Sunday and a summer art workshop for children every year.
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