Theatre veteran and art collector Ebrahim Alkzai to open a centre for Modern art in Okhla
At the ripe old age of 85,Ebrahim Alkazi has the energy of a 17-year-old. This fond description comes from his grandson,Rahaab Allana,who is currently the head curator at the Alkazi Art Foundation.
Alkazi,a theatre veteran who began his journey with the stage in the 1950s in Mumbai,then called Bombay,moved to Delhi and set up the Alkazi Art Foundation. At a time when most of his contemporaries are working on their golf handicaps,Alkazi is concentrating all his energy on building a new centre for the arts in Okhla in south Delhi.
This one will be for his collection of Modern art. He was friends with the Progressive Artists Group (PAG) when he was in Mumbai in the 1950s and began collecting their work as early as then, says Allana.
The present Alkazi Foundation in GK-II houses his entire collection of photographs from 1857,the year of the Indian Mutiny,to the 1940s and independent India. The collection first began to take shape in
London but both Alkazi and Allana felt that Indian scholars were not able to benefit from it and so the archive was moved to India in 2003.
The new archive for art is being greeted with much cheer by the art fraternity. It will be wonderful to have Alkazi as our neighbour in Okhla,I am sure we can make it a cultural hub, muses Parul Vadehra director of the Visual Arts Gallery in Okhla.
While Alkazis daughter Amal Allana,who currently heads Art Heritage at the Triveni Kala Sangam and is also the chairperson of the National School of Drama,guards him fiercely (read refusing to let us tire him with questions) his grandson shares a bit about Alkazis ideas for the new centre. After two exhibitions on photography at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi and one at the Bhaudaji Lad in Mumbai,we are encouraged to spread our wings a bit. We plan a series of exhibitions titled Photo Karavan with Max Mueller Bhavan all over South Asia,beginning with Delhi,where we will be encouraging photographers to look at the city as their studio, says Allana.
We will also be coming out with a quarterly magazine on photography and we have an upcoming publication with Yoda Press,but what I am most excited about is a photography reader that will be a compilation of writings on photography, he says. This will be available for students at an affordable Rs 300. This will be a book for scholars and writers and will be different from our other books that are high production glossies that pay a lot of attention to the photographs and are rather on the expensive side, says Allana of books like Lucknow : City of Illusion,one of Alkazis favourites,and Painted Photographs.