Since its inception in 1987, Vadehra Art Gallery (VAG) has promoted contemporary Indian art through exhibitions, retrospectives, publications and educational programmes. Over the last 20 years, the gallery has become the locus through which the works of both modern and contemporary artists have reached the public. VAG’s position as an artistic interlocutor with the public is especially vital in contemporary India because of the lack of a vibrant art museum culture.
It has been an exciting time working closely with some of India’s finest artists from different generations. We have had a long track record with the early modernists like M F Husain, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee, S H Raza, Ram Kumar and the subsequent generation of indgenist modernists like Arpita Singh, A Ramachandran, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Paramjit Singh, Ganesh Pyne, Jogen Chowdhury and Mrinalini Mukherjee. Finally there is the younger generation of Atul and Anju Dodiya, Jayashree Chakravarty, Rajnish Kaur, Sumedh Rajendran, Hema Upadhyay, BV Suresh, Shibu Natesan, Prajakta Palav and Shilpa Gupta, among others, who move seamlessly between installations, painting to video. They are a generation that is trying to make sense of an India caught in vortex of change (globalization, fundamentalism, and so on), searching for artistic experiences that would make sense of the changed contexts.
Starting in the 1990s, VAG paved the way for an active collaboration between private and public art sectors. In the mid-1990s, the gallery organized retrospectives with the government-run National Gallery of Modern Art of senior artists Ram Kumar, Raghu Rai, Devyani Krishna, A Ramachandran and SH Raza. In recent years, works from our collection and exhibitions of Atul Dodiya, Arpita Singh, Ravinder Reddy and A Ramachandran have been loaned to Kunstmuseum, Bern; the Chicago Cultural Centre; the Women’s Studies Research Centre, Brandies University; Jardin d’Acclimatation; Singapore Art Museum; and, Mori Art Museum, Japan, among others.
Our international recognition was further solidified by the 2006 collaboration with the Grosvenor (now the Grosvenor Vadehra) Gallery in London on the first ever Pablo Picasso exhibition held in a private gallery in India. After receiving an unprecedented response from art collectors, the general public and the press, the show solidified the notion that India was a viable destination for the international art world. Our new gallery in London, Grosvenor Vadehra, opened in 2006 with three inaugural exhibitions of Indian art – The Moderns Revisited, Inverting/Inventing Traditions and Here and Now: Young Voices from India. In 2007, we held a highly acclaimed exhibition of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon along with Tyeb Mehta and FN Souza in New Delhi.
FOUNDATION FOR INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART
The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) was launched in 2006 to support artists and educational activities in the visual arts, benefiting both emerging and established artists, art historians, curators, art critics, and other professionals devoted to the study of contemporary Indian art. With the initial support of Vadehra Art Gallery, FICA intends to be a self sustaining, not-for-profit entity through various fundraising activities and generous private contributions. FICA’s annual programmes include the Public Art Grant, the Research Fellowship for visual artists and writers and the Emerging Artist Award. FICA is also focused on children’s’ programming as well as the setting up of an archive of Contemporary Indian Art. FICA also has an exhibition grant, through which it aims to support Indian art exhibitions in museums abroad, and hopes to bring these groundbreaking exhibitions to India. FICA has supported London’s Serpentine Gallery’s travelling exhibition Indian Highway, an exhibition of contemporary Indian art curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton Jones. It has also supported the recent exhibition Where Three Dreams Cross - 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, which was curated by Sunil Gupta.
We were also the first to go into art publishing in a systematic way in 1996. This was in response to our artists’ dismay over the lack of adequate documentation, critical writing and scholarly debate around contemporary Indian art. We have published fourteen books so far (in addition to a multitude of exhibition catalogues) that range from monographs on artists, to books on art making technique, to picture books and finally a comprehensive art directory. Done in close collaboration with the artists, they are vital historical documents. Our latest book Shilpa Gupta has been published in collaboration with international publishing major Prestel and is in fact the first monograph published by them on a living Indian artist. It marks the beginning of the Vadehra Art Gallery-Prestel collaboration in publishing books on contemporary Indian art, with two other comprehensive publications on Sunil Gupta and Atul Dodiya slated for release in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
VADEHRA ART GALLERY BOOK|STORE
August 2008 saw the opening of the Vadehra Art Gallery Book|Store, the first-of-its-kind in India, which combines a reading room/library space by FICA and a bookstore. The FICA Reading Room gives students, collectors and enthusiasts a chance to reference at their leisure a plethora of Indian and international art books, journals, magazines and films. In addition to Indian and foreign books and catalogues on art, the bookstore offers a wide variety of Indian art inspired collectibles and home accessories as well as limited edition artist-signed prints.
In July 2009, VAG opened its fifth space at DLF Emporio, an exclusive high-end retail destination in Delhi. Adding to the three galleries in Defence Colony and Okhla in New Delhi, and Ryder Street in London, and the Bookstore & Reading Room in Defence Colony, this fifth space functions both as a contemporary art gallery with an active exhibition schedule as well as an exclusive store selling art books, products and accessories.