The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) is the premier art gallery under Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The main museum at Jaipur House in New Delhi was established on 29 March 1954 by the Government of India, with subsequent branches at Mumbai and Bangalore. Its collection of more than 1700 works by 2000 plus artists includes artists such as Thomas Daniell, Raja Ravi Verma, Abanindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Amrita Sher-Gil as well as foreign artists. Some of the oldest works preserved here date back to 1857. With 12,000 square meters of exhibition space, the Delhi branch is one of the world's largest modern art museums.
|Established||29 March 1954|
|Location||Jaipur House, Rajpath, New Delhi|
|Type||modern art museum|
|Owner||Government of India|
The first proposal for a National Art Gallery was made by a Delhi-based artists’ organisation, the AIFACS, in 1938.[page needed] This institution, initially registered as Delhi Fine Arts Society in 1929, was founded by artist–brothers Barada and Sarada Ukil who were students of Abanindranath Tagore.[note 1] In 1946, the Society organised the First International Contemporary Art Exhibition that included paintings of modern French and English artists, as well as etchings from American artists. The exhibition coincided with the first All India conference, where a resolution appointing AIFACS as a central art body was passed. In subsequent years, however, AIFACS’ claims were diluted by the factions that arose among the artists, with the newly set up All India Association of Fine Arts, Bombay, putting forth its own agency as a central organisation at the Third All India Art conference in 1948.In 1949 Art Conference at Calcutta The government invited a consortium of artists and critics for this conference on visual arts — Stella Kramrisch, G. Venkatachalam, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, O. C. Ganguly, Atul Bose, James H. Cousins and Percy Brown, among others — and asked for their suggestions on art institutions like the National Museum and the National Gallery of Art, and the educative role of art for the general public. On the issue of the Gallery, the participants at the seminar reacted in different ways. Some such as historian Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray encouraged the government to step in and set up the representative advisory body, while others like artist and founder member of the group in Delhi, Silpi Chakra, B. C. Sanyal, argued that it was wrong for the government to take the initiative away from the artists’ hands. It passed a resolution for the early establishment of the National Art Gallery and the improvement of the National Museum, as well as the formation of the three Akademis as part of a Sub Commission for Culture of the Indian National Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO.
In 1953 the Society organised the Second International Exhibition of Contemporary Art in its new building, which the national daily 'The Statesman' described as ‘no less than Venice Beinnale’. The State-supported NGMA had already come into being by 1954 and was formally inaugurated by Vice-president Dr S.Radhakrishnan, in the presence of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Hermann Goetz (1898–1976), a noted German art historian became its first curator and in time it added new facilities such as Art restoration services, an Art reference Library and a Documentation Centre. The Gallery opened with an exhibition of contemporary sculpture, apart from showcasing its initial collection of around 200 works, which consisted of paintings by Amrita Sher-Gil, Rabindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy, Nandalal Bose, and M. A. R. Chugtai, among others.
Situated at the end of Rajpath, in the Central Hexagon around the India Gate, the building was a former residential palace of the Maharaja of Jaipur, hence known as Jaipur House. The butterfly-shaped building with a central dome and built in 1936, and designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield, after the construction of Lutyens' Delhi. The Central Hexagon around the India Gate, where the buildings of leading princely states were situated, was itself designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Though the idea of the National Gallery was floated in 1949, it was formally inaugurated by Vice-president Dr S.Radhakrishnan in 1954, in the presence of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Hermann Goetz (1898–1976), a noted German art historian became its first curator and in time it added new facilities such as Art restoration services, an Art reference Library and a Documentation Centre.
The gallery at Jaipur house opened with an exhibition of Indian sculptures, showcasing myriad of 65 Indian sculptures, displayed in five rooms of the Jaipur house, by 31 artists like Debi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, Ram Kinkar Baij, Sankho Chaudhuri, Dhanraj Bhagat and Sarbari Roy Chowdhury. This event was even curated by Hermann Goetz. The startup aim of the museum was the acquisition and preservation of art works from 1850 to till date, mainly paintings, sculptures and graphics and later also photographs.
Then in 2009, a new wing of the National Gallery of Modern Art was inaugurated adding almost six times the space to the existing gallery, plus it has a new auditorium, a preview theatre, conservation laboratory, library and academic section as well as a cafeteria and museum shop.
Shri Adwaita Gadanayak since December 2016.
The comprehensive collection of NGMA and its regional centers comprise around 17,000 art objects - paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, photographs, and installations, essentially by Indian artists, built over the years through gifts, purchases, and permanent loans, it currently represents the works of about 2000 artists from India and abroad, and as in all dynamic institutions, the collection would continue to grow meaningfully.
The National Gallery of Modern Art began its systematic acquisition of modern arts by purchasing Amrita Sher- Gil's paintings. Among the 161 paintings handed over to the National Gallery of Modern Art, Sher-Gil and Tagore's paintings comprised more than half of the Museum's collection. An exemplary part of the Museum's collection constitute the 33 paintings purchased by the government from Egan along with the 33 paintings donated by Sher- Gil's father Umrao Singh. Umrao Singh offered a great deal of work to the government with a precondition that it should also buy the husband's work: “They serve along with her early works to show the development of her art and talent… But if her later works are not actually acquired by our nation, then what good will the old style work, which she herself did not value, be.”  Nehru decided to solve the issue by promising Dr. Egan the requested amount of Rs. 50,000. The money was taken from the National Museum funds to acquire the Amrita Sher-Gil's collection, which became the first step towards a state-collection of modern art.
The year between 1950 and 1954 saw the acquisition of the same number of works by the artist Abanindranath Tagore. Furthermore, Abdur Rahman Chughtai was represented by ten paintings while Jamini Roy and Nandalal Bose by eight paintings each. In 1953, in addition to Amrita's works, a collection of 66 paintings, sketches and drawings by Abanindranath Tagore were offered to the government for purchase. Pratima Tagore, Abanindranath's sister, offered her collection of 66 works of her brother to the government for Rs. 30,000. The paintings were stored at the Central Asian Antiquities Museum and shown occasionally at UNESCO meetings at the Parliament House. The National Gallery of Modern Art finally opened its doors at the Jaipur House, on 29 March 1954, under the administration of the government and an inaugural ceremony by Dr. Humayun Kabir, the then secretary of the Ministry of Education.
The strength of the NGMA collection is its impressive representation of the evolution of modern Indian art. The gallery has paintings by artists including Thomas Daniell, Raja Ravi Verma, Abanindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore, Rajkumar Sangwan, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Amrita Sher-Gil, Upendra Maharathi and various other artists.
The earliest are the indigenous schools of great Indian Miniatures: the vibrant Company, Kalighat and Tanjore schools of paintings. Academic Realists, Raja Ravi Varma, and those trained in the British art schools like M. F. Pithawala, Pestonjee Bomonjee, Hemen Majumdar amongst others contribute to a substantial presence. The next important phase of modern Indian artist, the Bengal School which countered the values of academic realists, is strongly represented by Abanindranath Tagore and his followers M. A. R Chughtai, Kshitindra Majumdar and others. The Santiniketan movement explored new aesthetic dimensions in its celebration of the environment, and its masters are Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij and Benode Behari Mukherjee. Even as the Santineketan artists flourished, four individual and original articulations of modernism emerged in the mid 1920s and 1930s. They are Rabindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, Amrita Sher-Gil and Jamini Roy. The NGMA has major collections of these artists oeuvre. 1940s onward saw the emergence of different artists groups in major cities. The Progressive Artists Group in Mumbai with M. F. Husain, F. N. Souza, K. H. Ara, S. H. Raza, the Calcutta group with Gopal Ghose, Paritosh Sen and Prodosh Das Gupta were significant in livening up the art scene of the period. Following the spirit of group activity, K. C. S. Paniker along with S. G. Vasudev, Paris Viswanathan and K. Ramanujan set up the idyllic artists' commune in Cholamandal, near Chennai.
The art of the 1950s and 1960s saw the rise of Indian abstract art and a pendulum swing between international modernism and traditional roots. The new artistic expressions find a strong place in the NGMA collection in the works of Biren De, G. R. Santosh, V. S. Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Satish Gujral, Akbar Padamsee, N. S. Bendre, K. K. Hebbar, Sailoz Mookherjea, Krishen Khanna and Ram Kumar. The NGMA also has some of the best works of K. G. Subramanyan, J. Swaminathan, A. Ramachandran and others. There is also a representative collection of artists who explored expressionism, surrealism, fantasies as well as pop art, during the 1960s and 1970s. Among other noted artists Ganesh Pyne, Bhupen Khakhar, G. M. Sheikh, Prabhakar Barwe, Arpita Singh, Rameshwar Broota, Jogen Chowdhury, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Nalini Malani, Vivan Sundaram, Paramjeet Singh, etc. are part of the collection. Contemporaries like Jitish Kallat, Jayashree Chakravarty, Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya, Chittrovanu Mazumdar, Subodh Gupta, Pushpamala N. and Riyas Komu are also represented.
Printmaking has been a strong current in modern Indian art. The innovative experiments from the 19th century onwards have been recorded with an exemplary collection of graphic prints of artists such as Jyoti Bhatt, Somnath Hore, Krishna Reddy, Anupam Sud, and Laxma Goud.
The NGMA has a collection of modern sculptures by famous sculptors like D. P. Roy Choudhury, Chintamoni Kar and Ramkinkar Baij. The NGMA holds a rich and varied collection of works of the major sculptors of the country with D. P. Roy Chowdhury, Ramkinkar Baij, Pradosh Das Gupta, Shankoo Chaudhuri, Meera Mukherjee, Amarnath Sehgal, Piloo Pochkhanwala, A. Davierwalla, Mahendra Pandya, Nagji Patel, Balbir Kat, Latika Kat, P. V. Jankiram, Nandgopal, and later contemporaries like Himmat Shah, Madan Lal, Mrinalini Mukherjee, Sudarshan Shetty, Subodh Gupta, Prithpal Singh Ladi, and Karlo Antao amongst other eminent sculptors, tracking the developments in the plastic arts. Painters, who have made significant contributions in sculpture, have been collected by NGMA like K. G. Subramanyan and Satish Gujral, amongst others.
The NGMA has a large collection of photographs by Lala Deen Dayal, one of the pioneers of photography in India. The NGMA began collecting photographs as an art form during the late 1970s. The collection is small, yet distinguished. Raja Deen Dayal's photographs of the regal life of early 20th century Hyderabad are treasure. So are the photographs of contemporary India by Raghu Rai, and modern cinema by Nemai Ghosh and Dayanita Singh.
The collection also includes sculptures, graphics and paintings by international modern artists such as Jacob Epstein, Giorgio de Chirico, Sonia Delaunay, Antoni Tàpies, Robert Rauschenberg, Se Duk Lee, D. C. Daja, Peter Lubarda, Kozo Mio, George Keyt and Fred Thieler.
Ahldag, Arnika (2021). "In transition: Collection building at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi" (PDF). Chitrolekha Journal on Art and Design. 5 (1). doi:10.21659/cjad.51.v5n104. Retrieved 29 January 2022.