See the diversity of India's modern and contemporary art at Archer Art Gallery's latest exhibition

Archer Art Gallery launches its new gallery with an exhibition displaying the diversity and depth of Indian modern and contemporary art. The display is headlined by art from masters like Husain, Raza, Souza, Bendre, Gaitonde, Padamsee, Khakhar, Ravi Varma and Tyeb Mehta, along with many other veterans from across the country. It will remain open till September 30. 

Anil Relia (sitting) with son Manan Relia
Anil Relia (sitting) with son Manan Relia

One of the Ahmedabad’s largest art collections has a new address now. The Relia family – with father Anil Relia and Manan Relia – has shifted the Archer Art Gallery from its location in Gurukul to its brand new office and storage-cum-gallery-space at Vijay Cross Roads. To be opened in the evening hours of August 2, their Inaugural Exhibition will exhibit works by around 50 Indian artists, including MF Husain, SH Raza, FN Souza and Tyeb Mehta. The paintings, sculptures and prints by masters, as well as emerging artists, have all been curated by art entrepreneur Anil Relia himself.

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The collection is a fine demonstration of Relia’s spectacular taste in art. One instantly gets a sense of this on entering the newly designed gallery. As an onlooker, I was spellbound on being greeted by the mythological paintings and portraits of Raja Ravi Varma that are over a century old. His legendary artworks are displayed opposite a monumental Tyeb Mehta painting which, according to Manan Relia, “has never been exhibited in Ahmedabad before”.

The deeper you walk into the gallery, the more limitless the art collection seems. After crossing JP Gangooly’s spectacular landscape and NS Bendre’s masterfully coloured everyday sceneries, the viewer is introduced to paintings by SH Raza. This is followed by a figurative sketch by FN Souza, abstract art by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, and the beautiful figurative art of self-taught artist Bhupen Khakhar.

A corner dedicated to the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group includes MF Husain‘s brightly coloured horses. But my attention was particularly caught by Jogen Chowdhury‘s stirring works, amongst which one was titled Crying Man and the Boy. Though the Crying Man’s face is covered by his palms, one can feel his agony and grief through the Boy’s consoling expressions.

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A pillar of sketches by Akbar Padamsee is placed in such a way as to complement the monochromatic amoeba-shaped abstracts of Jeram Patel, situated on an accompanying wall. Patel’s works are followed by the iconic wooden works of Piraji Sagara and the Cubist, sepia-toned expressions of Natvar Bhavsar. Amit Ambalal‘s colourful family painting and florescent green sculpture anchor the space, while Manjit Bawa’s painting of a goat and Ganpati sketch create a dialogue with Karl Antao’s raging heads.

While observing the surreal landscapes of Nabibakhsh Mansoori, Anil Relia, who has been collecting art since 1970, said to me, “An artist must work continuously to make great art. When I bought Mansoori’s full show, in an era when he was struggling to meet ends, I took a promise from him that he will never stop making art. And today, Mansoori’s paintings, are fetching ten times more the price than what it was in those days”

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With its many twists and turns, the gallery is like a python that is sound asleep. It carries the onlooker through a passage full of dexterously made art, like Madhvi Parekh’s folk-inspired paintings, Manu Parekh‘s humongous depiction of Varanasi, Vrindavan Solanki‘s faceless tribal figures and sculptures by Ratilal Kansodaria and Piraji Sagara. You might be looking at many of these artworks for the very first time, like I am, such as the colourful realist paintings of S. G. Vasudev and Somalal Shah.

The spectacular art collection ends with a life-sized painting by Bhairavi Modi and a Mughal-inspired artwork by Paritosh Sen. A gigantic MF Husain painting on the theme of Mughal-e-Azam combines stories across six colourful segments, adding the final touch to the show.

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The Inaugural Exhibition at Archer Art Gallery is a spectacular showcase of India’s Modern and Contemporary art, spanning over a century. In terms of its sheer scale, variety and stature, it’s truly impactful. The gallery doors will remain open for all, every day from 11:00 AM to 07:00 PM, till September 30.

The onrush of art does not end here though! Archer Gallery is planning  a big solo exhibition of Amit Ambalal’s body of work starting October 11, 2018.

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