Turn back the clock to circa 1943: Kekoo Gandhy saw that Khorshed Adenwalla was looking a little bored. It was a tea-dance and he knew that shed helped sell the tickets but something told him that she might welcome the chance to get an ice-cream. She agreed, they wound up catching a film at the Metro and getting married a couple of years later.
Along the way, they had five children: one son, two daughters, a gallery and then another daughter.
Beginning September 2013, Chemould
will celebrate its fiftieth year of existence. It has been an eventful period, taking in some of the most significant developments in the history of modern Indian art. When Kekoo Gandhy began a frame shop in Princess Street, it was another business venture. But when he saw that the artists who brought him their works to frame had nowhere to display or sell their work, he decided to offer them his shop as a space. And so M F Husain, S H Raza, H R Ara, F N Souza, Gade and K K Hebbar began their careers, their work staring out of the bay windows of Chemould Frames. Inside Roshan Kalapesi, another name to conjure with, in the world of Indian handicrafts, was looking after things. After a while, it would be the poet Nissim Ezekiels turn to play manager.
It was in 1963, that Cowasji Jehangir offered Kekoo Gandhy a space on the first floor of the Jehangir Art Gallery.
Gallery Chemould one of two commercial galleries in Bombay - an important part of the landscape of the city, where collecting began to gain momentum, was officially born. This was not just the iconic gallery with the curved wall; it was also a seedbed and a nursery and a confessional. Artists turned up for advice, for loans, for encouragement and inspiration. They drew from Kekoos enthusiasm and from Khorsheds good sense. Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, Bhupen Khakhar, Nasreen Mohammedi, Pilloo Pochkhanawala
all have had their first exhibitions in this space. (then a chic chatai-clad 70s decor.) Kekoo and Khorshed's special interest in tribal art resulted in the very first exhibition of Jivya Soma Mahshe who went on to show in several international exhibitions around the world.
In 1988 when the gallery was celebrating 25 years at its Kala Ghoda location, Shireen Gandhy entered the gallery to assist and gradually take over the reins from her parents.
The gallery continued to gain momentum with younger artists with a changing vocabulary. Artists were gradually beginning to depart from the everyday language of art. Artists began to work in mediums other than canvas, such as video and installations and while change was in the air, Gallery Chemould was part of that change.
In 2007, Gallery Chemould moved to an expansive loft-like space, and thus was born, Chemould Prescott Road.
The celebration of Chemould's 50th year will comprise five concise and powerful exhibitions under the title: Aesthetic Bind. Starting from 6 September 2013, the first in the series: Subject of Death addresses issues of mortality through the life of Bhupen Khakhar, a key artist who passed away 10 years ago. Six other artists in the exhibition, will look at the poetics of life and death with Khakhar playing the protagonist with key works borrowed from important collections.
This will be followed by four other exhibitions, each with a well-defined thematic
Kekoo Gandhy is no longer with us but his spirit continues to inform and infuse the Gallery. Chemould Prescott will extend and intensify his compassionate and engaged relationship with art and the city.