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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Oldworld charm with hint of new as Connaught Place gallery is revamped

Over the years the gallery has hosted several important exhibitions, including Krishen Khanna’s truck series and Jeram Patel’s Blow torch works.

Written by Vandana Kalra | New Delhi |
Updated: November 13, 2021 2:16:44 pm
At Dhoomimal Gallery in Connaught Place. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)

Among the numerous narrow stores at Chawri Bazaar in the 1930s was a small shop that would provide artists in Delhi with stationery and printing material. The owner, Ram Babu Jain, was more a friend than a shopkeeper. When he decided to shift his store Dhoomimal Dharamdas to Connaught Place in 1935, his clients too shifted with him. An art connoisseur, he often imported paints, paper and brushes to supply them at a minimal price.

Soon, artists began to trade supplies with their artwork resulting in a substantive collection that Jain began to showcase on the floor above the store in 1936, leading to the establishment of one of India’s oldest art galleries. Over the years, it has worked with some of the most renowned artists of the country, including Francis Newton Souza, Jamini Roy, Sailoz Mukherjea and Ram Kumar.

Uday Jain at Dhoomimal Gallery. (Express photo by Abhinav Saha)

While several renovations have taken place since, the gallery has now been completely refurbished by Ram Babu Jain’s grandson, Uday Jain. “We wanted to retain the charm of the past but also make changes that are contemporary. The open courtyard has been kept,” says Uday, who took over more than 15 years ago.

Attempting to retain a semblance of the past, Uday has kept the old structure, including the British fireplace. There are also photographs of artists and luminaries, including former PM Indira Gandhi, who visited the gallery. “We want people to know the history of the place,” says Uday.

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In keeping with Ram Babu’s policy of promoting young artists, currently showing on the walls are the works of young artists who are part of the Ravi Jain Memorial Exhibition.

In keeping with Ram Babu’s policy of promoting young artists, currently showing on the walls are the works of young artists who are part of the Ravi Jain Memorial Exhibition. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

 

“During the initial years, every afternoon, around 8-10 people would come here for lunch. My grandfather did all he could to support artists. A R Chughtai, for instance, worked on a specific paper which was not available in India, so my grandfather imported that. He also published monographs on artists like Chughtai, Jamini Roy and Sailoz Mukherjea. In the 1940s, the gallery supported a group called Kalakar that brought together like-minded people interested in art, poetry and music,” says Uday.

In the late ’50s and ’60s, while Vijay Jain handled the Delhi gallery, siblings Mahender Jain and Ravi Jain established a gallery in New York and travelled across US, showcasing works of artists like MF Husain, KS Kulkarni, Ram Kumar, Sunil Das, Shanti Dave, Biren De and Krishen Khanna.

In the late ’50s and ’60s, while Vijay Jain handled the Delhi gallery, siblings Mahender Jain and Ravi Jain established a gallery in New York and travelled across US, showcasing works of artists like MF Husain, KS Kulkarni, Ram Kumar, Sunil Das, Shanti Dave, Biren De and Krishen Khanna. (Express Photo by Ahinav Saha)

In the ’60s, several expats in India would purchase artwork from Dhoomimal. “Internatio-nally, foreign art had already reached a certain level and they found the price of Indian art more reasonable. Even in the early ’90s, you could get a Souza canvas for Rs 10,000,” says Uday.

While its collection of modernists remains its primary asset, sharing his vision for the coming years, Uday says, “We would be looking at promoting more young artists, have interactive sessions, seminars and contribute towards art education.”

Over the years the gallery has hosted several important exhibitions, including Krishen Khanna’s truck series and Jeram Patel’s Blow torch works.

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