Eighty-year-old Delhi art gallery gets a facelift

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Dhoomimal may be one of Delhi’s oldest galleries, but after renovation nothing is out of fashion

The refurbished interiors of the recently refurbished Dhoomimal Gallery feature specific elements that allow contemporary art to be discovered

Founded eight decades ago, the Dhoomimal Gallery in New Delhi is one of the oldest names in art sales. For Ram Babu Jain, the founder of the gallery, Dhoomimal was first and foremost a commercial entity which developed its printing and publishing business. For his grandson, Uday Jain, the gallery is an adventure, but also more. “I have been visiting the gallery since I was 40 days old![I have] spent more time with artists and surrounded by art than at home, ”he says. Growing up, Jain wanted to be a lot of things – movie star, sports car racer – but deep down he knew that art was his destiny. He says that in an ideal world he would have gained more experience visiting museums and world art fairs, but the loss of his father at the age of nine meant he had to take over the business more. sooner than expected.

Founded eight decades ago, the Dhoomimal Gallery in New Delhi is one of the oldest names in art sales. For Ram Babu Jain, the founder of the gallery, Dhoomimal was first and foremost a commercial entity which developed its printing and publishing business. For his grandson, Uday Jain, the gallery is an adventure, but also more. “I have been visiting the gallery since I was 40 days old![I have] spent more time with artists and surrounded by art than at home, ”he says. Growing up, Jain wanted to be a lot of things – movie star, sports car racer – but deep down he knew that art was his destiny. He says that in an ideal world he would have gained more experience visiting museums and world art fairs, but the loss of his father at the age of nine meant he had to take over the business more. sooner than expected.

With a legacy of expertise in moderns, the gallery has recently made a foray into the contemporary art space. The idea is to continue to support new talent. Jain says, “My grandfather, with the support of artists like Sailoz Mookherjee and critics like AS Raman, nurtured the new talent of the time. Over the years, my father and J. Swaminathan have formed one of the best artist-gallerist relationships. When Jain took office in 2003, he said the Indian art world was changing. He then, with a determined objective, consolidated and stabilized the gallery. It was only now that he felt the need to expand the gallery’s portfolio and include early career artists. For this, Dhoomimal has been recently renovated. The renovated interiors include specific elements that allow you to discover contemporary art.

“Connaught Place has colonial architecture. Being a designated heritage area, there are strict rules regarding alterations to a building. Therefore, we really couldn’t do a lot of structural change, ”Jain explains. By keeping intact the ethics of the heritage exterior, he managed to achieve a complete overhaul of the look and feel of the space. To achieve the desired contemporary feel, the original windows with their colonial design were opened, the courtyard received a Spanish interpretation, and the walls were less ornate. All of this is juxtaposed with remnants of British architecture – the original fireplace, the staircase displaying a pictorial timeline of the gallery’s history. “Moments like the visit of Dr Rajendra Prasad and Ms Indira Gandhi watching a performance in Souza as sitting Prime Minister, to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam enjoying the works of art are all special.”

Against the traditional architecture of Dhoomimal, contemporary works of art seem to take on new meaning. Jain says: “As at the Kochi Biennale, the old shipyards are used to present contemporary works and installations, the result is fantastic. Dhoomimal has a solid selection of young artists to brag about. It will also offer an annual scholarship to support outstanding talent.

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