Perfect silver line

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It has been one of the most rec­ognised outposts of art in Delhi. As Gallery Espace celebrated its 25th anniversary recently, art aficio­nados from across the Indian art fra­ternity have marked the milestone. After all, this gallery was started at the suggestion of the legendary M.F. Husain and he was a regular patron of the gallery, drawing many other legendary names to the gallery over the years.

Gallery Espace was opened in 1989 by Renu Modi, wife of D.K. Modi, one of India’s lead­ing business clans. It was one of the first art galleries in India to introduce variable lighting and sound systems, in recog­nition of the cru­cial factor that is the environment within which a work of art is displayed. Gallery Espace also pioneered video installations, going so far as to organise a first-of- its-kind monthly

out-reach programme to bring artists work­ing in new media into the spotlight.

India and Indian art were in a different era when Modi began this journey. Interested in art, she was encouraged to finish her graduation by her husband and began collecting art seriously. This was the time Husain encouraged her to take up art.

Along with Husain, she was fortu­nate to be guided by stalwarts such as Manjit Bawa (her mentor for decades), J. Swaminathan, Laxma Goud, Anjolie Ela Menon and Manu Parekh, who were all early associates in the journey. “It was a different relation­ship between artists and gallerists then,” she remembers. Infor­mal and open is how she remembers those early years and col­laborations. A lot of her understanding of
art came from sitting with them in their studios, often for hours, spend­ing time with critics, absorbing finer nuances. “Interacting with them taught me so much about the world of art.” Among the changes she has noticed over the years is the much greater interest in art.

Art outpost

To mark the anniversary, the gallery hosted one of the most ambitious shows ever featuring ‘Drawings’ by over hundred Indian contemporary artists. “Drawing is the foundation of all art and the basis of all disci­plines,” says Modi. She fondly recol­lects that Husain introduced her to the finer nuances of drawings a for­mat that has remained a personal favourite from then on.

Drawing 2014 showcased more than 100 artists from India and features works dating from 1947 to the present, in which drawing is presented as a broad and inclusive practice. Along with works on single sheets of paper, there are artists’ books, studies for other projects, multiples, laser drawings, animation and more. This breadth allows curators and view­ers to understand how an academic practice moves between the peda­gogic and the conceptual realms and between established and experimen­tal ways of working. Apart from this expansive show, there are several collateral/outreach events that will reflect on the significance of draw­ings in art and other disciplines.

Over the years, Gallery Espace, tucked away in south west Delhi’s New Friends Colony, has shaped the choices of many a Delhi art lover. Despite odds, including challenges such as dismissing her as just another ‘rich, bored housewife with a hobby’, the gallery persevered, and is today among the most recognised art out­posts in the city. And it’s grown from strength to strength.

♦ SUMAN TARAFDAR [email protected]


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