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India@75

India at 75 | Timeline: Art

Print edition : Aug 25, 2022 T+T-

India at 75 | Timeline: Art

It overcame a colonial hangover to create a unique and vibrant place for itself.

The journey of post-Independence Indian art is an ongoing dialogue between past and present. It emerged early from a colonial hangover to create a unique and vibrant place for itself. Its continuing resonance has been bolstered by both individual voices and collectives.

1940s

1947/48: F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, M.F. Husain and K.H. Ara begin the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG), which would have an important influence on post-Independence Indian art. H.A. Gade and S.K. Bakre join soon after.

The Progressive Artists Group in 1947.
The Progressive Artists Group in 1947.

1948: First group exhibition by the PAG, and the only one in which all artists showcased their art together.

1949/50: The original PAG disbands. M.F. Husain keeps it going, with Mohan Samant, V.S. Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna and Bhanu Athaiya.

1949: The founding of the Maharaj Sayajirao University of Baroda, where the Department of Fine Arts sees the flourishing of painters such as K.G. Subramanyam, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Rekha Rodwittiya and Manjit Bawa.

1949: F.N. Souza moves to London after being hounded by the police who act on complaints of obscenity in his art.

1950s

“Bride with two companions” by Jamini Roy, gouache on cloth
“Bride with two companions” by Jamini Roy, gouache on cloth

1950: Triveni Kala Sangam set up in New Delhi.

1950: V.S. Gaitonde joins the PAG. His unique abstract and non-objective style makes him a much sought-after artist.

1950: S.H. Raza leaves for Paris. His is the first of many departures of PAG artists from the country.

1952: Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai opens. Named after Baronet Cowasji Jehangir who was a patron of the arts, it will become a significant space for Indian contemporary artists.

1952: M.F. Husain’s first solo exhibition in Zurich, heralding his meteoric rise in the international art circuit.

1952: Satish Gujral makes his entry in the Indian and international art world.

1952: Jamini Roy’s “Bride with two companions” unveiled. It continues to be among India’s most popular paintings.

1954: The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) established in New Delhi.

1954: Lalit Kala Akademi, also known as the National Academy of Art, is set up as an autonomous body under the government.

Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi.
Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: SUDERSHAN V

1954: Painter Akbar Padamsee is charged with obscenity for two of his paintings, “Lovers I” and “Lovers II”.

1954: Ramkinkar Baij, Santiniketan’s most prodigious sculptor, creates the Reserve Bank of India’s Yaksha and Yakshini statues.

1956: PAG disbanded.

1959: Bal Chhabda, an artist and a passionate art lover, starts Gallery 59 within the premises of the Bhulabhai Desai Memorial Institute, Mumbai. It was here that the PAG found a formal representation.

1959: Tyeb Mehta, a member of the PAG, has his first solo exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery.

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1960s

Early 1960s: Emergence of the Madras Art Movement, which heralded a new vanguard of modern art in South India and artists such as K.C.S. Paniker, S. Dhanapal and Anila Jacob.  

1961: Nasreen Mohamedi, considered one of the most significant artists to emerge post-Independence, has her first solo show at Gallery 59.

1962: Group 1890, a collective of a dozen artists primarily from the Baroda school, formed. Its members include M. Redappa Naidu, Jeram Patel, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Himmat Shah and S.G. Nikam.

1963: First exhibition of Group 1890 inaugurated by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at Lalit Kala Akademi. While the collective was short-lived, most of the artists went on to build successful careers.

1963: Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy open Gallery Chemould in Mumbai, a space for multidisciplinary art.

1965: Neo-tantric art creates an impression with Biren De’s exhibition in New Delhi. Its other practitioners include K.C.S. Paniker, Ghulam Rasoon Santosh, J. Swaminathan, Shankar Palsikar, K.V. Haridasan, Om Prakash Sharma and Prafulla Mohanti.

1966: The Cholamandalam Artists’ Village, a self-sufficient commune for artists, is born.  

1967: Himmat Shah, a member of Group 1890 and a modern art sculptor, designs monumental murals in brick, cement and concrete at St. Xavier’s School Ahmedabad.

1968: India hosts its first Triennale, conceived by the then Lalit Kala Akademi chairman Mulk Raj Anand.

1970s

This is the decade of new modern artists with distinct styles such as K.G. Subramanyam, A. Ramachandran, Prabhakar Barwe, Ganesh Pyne and Jogen Choudhary.

Early 1970s: Raghubir Singh introduces colour photography as a form of art.

1972: Jamini Roy passes away.

1977: First all-India workshop, on Marxism and aesthetics, at Kasauli by Vivan Sundaram.

“ Man with a Bouquet of Plastic Flowers” by Bhupen Khakhar, oil on canvas, circa 1976.
“ Man with a Bouquet of Plastic Flowers” by Bhupen Khakhar, oil on canvas, circa 1976.

1977: Ebrahim and Roshen Alkazi found the Art Heritage Gallery in Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi. It evolves as a landmark space that sees the confluence of all forms of modern art including theatre, film and the visual arts.

1978: Kala Yatra, an effort by Sara Abraham and Husain to sell art at affordable prices as well as showcase lesser known artists, holds first show in Mumbai.

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1980s

The decade of Bhupen Khakhar’s paintings, India’s first “pop” artist, whose paintings depict gay love.  

1980s: Nasreen Mohamedi and V.S. Gaitonde start working together.

1980s: S.H. Raza paints his iconic “Bindu” series.

“Surya Namaskar” by S.H. Raza.
“Surya Namaskar” by S.H. Raza.

1982: Bharat Bhavan, a multi-arts centre designed by Charles Correa in Bhopal, inaugurated by Indira Gandhi.

1982: Jangarh Singh Shyam, a Gond artist, displays his work at Bharat Bhavan, paving the way for folk art in the modern Indian art scene.

Gond artists Nankushiya Shyam and Jangarh Singh Shyam with J Swaminathan.
Gond artists Nankushiya Shyam and Jangarh Singh Shyam with J Swaminathan.

1983: Sculptor K.S. Radhakrishnan has his first solo show at the Jehangir Art Gallery.

1985: The Kerala Radicals, a collective of artists from Kerala living in Baroda, showcase their first exhibition titled “Seven young sculptors”. The collective remains active till 1989.

1987-89: Painter Nalini Malani organises “Through the looking glass”, the first all-women art exhibiton. Madhvi Parekh, Nilima Sheikh and Arpita Singh participate.

1990s

1990: Surge in private galleries across the country. The interest in buying Indian contemporary art is also linked to the surging stock market.

Mid 1990s: Beginnings of digital and mixed media.

1996: Complaints against and targeting of Husain begin.

1997: Formation of Khoj, the New Delhi-based arts organisation.

Also read: India at 75 | Timeline: Labour

2000s

2000: India’s first online auction house, saffronart.com,established.

2002: Tyeb Mehta’s “Celebration” fetches Rs.1.5 crore at a Christies auction.

2004: A group called Bombay Boys brings cutting-edge art in different mediums to the country. The marquee names of this collective are Subodh Gupta, G.R. Iranna, Riyas Komu, Bose Krishnamachari, Atul Dodiya and Baiju Parthan.

2005: V.S. Gaitonde becomes the first Indian contemporary painter whose work sells for Rs.90 lakh at India’s first private commercial auction organised by Osian’s auction house.

M.F Husain at work in Mumbai on October 18, 2003.
M.F Husain at work in Mumbai on October 18, 2003. | Photo Credit: VIKAS KHOT

2006: Husain is charged with hurting religious sentiments. His painting “Bharat Mata” is the subject of the complaints. He leaves India to remain in exile until his death.

2007: Osian’s launches India’s first art fund. Investors guaranteed a return of an attractive 10 per cent on their deposits. SEBI shut it down in 2010 for non-registration.

2008: Husain becomes the highest paid painter in India after he sells 15 paintings at Rs.12.5 crore at a Christie’s auction.

2008: India Art Summit (later renamed India Art Fair) opens in New Delhi. An annual event, it attracts artists, creative professionals, museums, institutions and gallerists from all over the world.

2010 onwards

2010: S.H. Raza returns to India.

2010: The Centre for Media and Arts is set up in Bengaluru.

2010: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art opens in New Delhi, the first private museum of Indian contemporary art.

2011: India has its own pavilion at Venice Biennale.

2011: M.F. Husain dies in exile.

2012: India’s first art biennale opens in Kochi with about 80 international and Indian artists.

2013: An untitled V.S. Gaitonde sells for a record Rs.23 crore (US$3.0 million) at the Christie’s debut auction in India.

2014: St+art, a street art project, takes off. Artists collaborate with the Central and State governments to improve and reimagine public spaces.

2015: Subodh Gupta’s installation “When Soak becomes Spill” makes waves at Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

2016: S.H. Raza passes away.

2017: Bihar Museum, an avant-garde space for modern art designed by the Japanese firm Maki and Associates, opens in Patna.

2018: Ram Kumar passes away.

2020: A 1974 untitled V.S. Gaitonde oil is auctioned by Pundole in Mumbai for Rs.32 crore.

2020: Akbar Padamsee passes away.