Photos: Courtesy of Delhi Art Gallery
Late this summer I was in New Delhi visiting a bit of its art world, and was struck by the work some of its elite modern and contemporary art galleries in the realm of documentation and research. I had gone to the Delhi Art Gallery to look at its collection of Indian mid-20th-century modernists, particularly Francis Newton Souza who my friend Ulli Beier once held as a model for young Nigerian artists. Of course I saw the art I was after, but it was the range of publications commissioned and produced by the DAG that I found astounding. For years this gallery and others like it, such as the Vadehra Art Gallery, have been at the forefront of producing scholarly publications on especially modern Indian artists. And they have, I think, helped in increasing international scholarly (and yes, commercial) attention these artists are attracting now.
When I think of how these commercial art galleries participate in serious knowledge production only very few galleries, even blue chips of New York's Chelsea district, come to mind. Here you have substantial monographic studies of individual artists-- from Souza, and Raza to Sunil Das, Rabin Mondal, etc--and their wonderful survey volumes, Manifestations. I just involuntarily pined for the day galleries in Lagos would grow up to doing this kind of crucial groundwork. To really invest in artists whose work they claim to promote. So, there I was so thrilled at the work being done by commercial galleries in New Delhi; like a child confronted by a candy-bearer, I packed so much books published by just the DAG and Vadehra, that I had to pay excess luggage on my way back to base. Contrast this with my visit to the "high-end" Mydrim Gallery in Lagos earlier in the summer: I came out empty-handed. Oh, the wish, the wish.