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Kekoo Minochair Gandhy

  • Starting from a cosmopolitan milieu for young local artists, Kekoo and his wife Khorshed Gandhy developed a business model that turned the frame shop into Gallery Chemould.
  • Kekoo
  • Minochair
  • Gandhy
  • Kaikhushru

  • 02-02-1920
  • Mumbai (IN)
  • 10-11-2012
  • Mumbai (IN)
  • Frame Shop OwnerGalleristArt Collector
  • Starting from a cosmopolitan milieu for young local artists, Kekoo and his wife Khorshed Gandhy developed a business model that turned the frame shop into Gallery Chemould.

    Word Count: 27

  • Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy in front of their life’s work. Drawing by Kripa in The Art Gallery on Princess Street by Jerry Pinto (Reprinted from: Pinto 2019, 28).
  • About 100 days after India gained independence from colonial rule and a few days before the Progressive Artist’s Group formed in December 1947 - rejecting Bengal School revivalist methods and British academic styles in favour of a hybrid modernity - Kekoo Gandhy put forward ideas for a “revival of art in India” (Gandhy 1947, 14). Based on a lecture given by Rudolf von Leyden on his return from Europe on the revival and rehabilitation of art and art education after the effects of the war, Kekoo Gandhy outlined his ideas for the promotion of art in post-colonial India. As the new member of the Bombay Art Society Committee, Gandhy, emphasized four levels: the role of art societies in creating “public interest and creating a new patron in the common man”; the role of local art institutions expanding their activities from annual exhibitions to social institutions; the role of art publications (illustrated by the year-old Marg magazine); and, the importance of art education and art in education on several levels, thereby specifying innovative activities of the Bombay Art Society’s salon:
    “In the recently-revived Bombay Art Society we have at present one of the most active socio-educational institutions of the city. The newly furnished salon has given Bombay a permanent exhibition hall and platform where artists may begin to learn the rudiments of self-expression and ultimately […] to fight for their rights. It has been organising regular talks, holding informal discussions on art and having a series of one-man-shows.
    A commendable sales scheme which ought to go a long way to assist art collectors and artists has been undertaken by the Society. Members of the Society will be allowed to take the pictures on loan – as books are taken from a library. They can keep the painting in their rooms for some time and make up their minds if they want to live in their company for ever. With the added facility of payment on an instalment basis, a far wider circle can avail themselves of this opportunity. This ought to make the artists popular and also make their works a topic of discussion” (ibid).
    Innovative concepts, unusual approaches, the implementation of visions with courage and the use of art as a socio-political instrument were some of the characteristics that accompanied the life of the “changer” Kekoo Gandhy. Born into a Parsi tobacco business family, he switched to moulding and frame manufacturing in the early 1940s when he founded Chemould Moulding. When his general enthusiasm met that of the Austrian painter in exile, Walter Langhammer, for the local young avant-garde artists, Gandhy became involved in the art circles of Bombay and later created a new business model for his family enterprise by opening a frame shop, later frame shops-cum-galleries and Chemould Gallery. With these institutionalised bodies, he created exhibition space and audience for the artists. As the joint honorary secretary of the Bombay Art Society from 1948 to 1952, he and Käthe Langhammer used the salon of the Bombay Art Society to organise solo exhibitions for the young moderns. A network of different artists was knitted, which was reinforced through informal meetings. They reflected, invented and implemented tools to encourage and support young painters and improve the general understanding of art as a self-expression and political statement.
    When independent India was still in its infancy, Kekoo spent a lot of time traveling around the nation, advocating the unification of Indian art and lobbying for institutional bodies for the new country. He was instrumental in founding the Jehangir Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai, the Lalit Kala Academy in New Delhi and the Triennale India.
    Rarely at home himself, Kekoo’s wife Khorshed backed all his efforts; also in opposition to Kekoo’s patriarchal father. Nurturing her four children − as well as her fifth baby; Chemould Gallery − Khorshed provided substance for Kekoo’s highflying dreams. For Ranjit Hoskote, “they came across as a portrait of beautifully wedded opposites. With her practicality and eye for the details of contracts and execution, Khorshed provided a bracing and productive counterpoint to her husband, with his preference for high-altitude navigation in the realms of vision and policy” (Hoskote 2012). Or as Jerry Pinto aptly describes it in relation to Chemould Gallery: “Kekoo gave the gallery wings; Khorshed gave it roots” (Pinto 2019, 24).
    When he was home, Kekoo opened his Kekee Manzil family home as well as his other spaces to others regardless of their class, rank or socio-economic background. He invited M.F. Husain to paint in his house, as he also invited a talented young unknown artist from the nearby slum. In his heart, Kekoo was – besides all his elitist upbringing and his network – a social reformer, a democrat and a Gandhian disciple who stood up for civil society.
    By the end of the 1950s, Chemould Moulding Factory had become Asia’s biggest frame manufacturer exporting also to Africa, the Middle East and West Indies. That experiment being a financial success, the Gandhy couple went for the next experiment opening Chemould Gallery in 1963, adopting an inclusive programme of different styles and manifestations of Indian art; open, generous, and liberal.
    In 1947, Kekoo Gandhy finished his article with, “Art education should be directed not so much with the view to creating artists as with the view to creating citizens who are aesthetically and socially conscious” (Gandhy 1947, 14). Looking back on his life, the institutions he worked on, his art of networking between sociability and patronage, his socio-political commitment, his cries for the freedom of the arts and his educational work as a gallery owner have certainly changed the perception of art for many ordinary people.

    Word Count: 934

  • Kekoo Gandhy in conversation with the painter K.K. Hebbar in front of Souza’s Death of the Pope, Taj Mahal Gallery, 1961 (Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz © Gandhy Archive, Mumbai; All Rights Reserved).
    Kekoo Gandhy with the author (far left) visiting a local artist and his family in his Mumbai home, 2007 (© Margit Franz; All Rights Reserved).
    Khorshed and Kekoo Gandhy in front of the oil portrait of their children Adil and Rashna by Walter Langhammer in their family house, Kekee Manzil, May 2007 (Photo: Margit Franz; All Rights Reserved).
  • Bhatia, Sidharth. “The Accidental Gallerist and the Making of Indian Modern Art.” 8 July 2020, The Wire, Accessed 4 February 2021.

    Franz, Margit. “Exile meets Avantgarde: ExilantInnen-Kunstnetzwerke in Bombay.” Going East – Going South. Österreichisches Exil in Asien und Afrika, edited by Margit Franz and Heimo Halbrainer, CLIO, 2014, pp. 403–431. Academia, Accessed 16 June 2021.

    Franz, Margit. Gateway India: Deutschsprachiges Exil in Indien zwischen britischer Kolonialherrschaft, Maharadschas und Gandhi. CLIO, 2015.

    Gandhy, Kekoo. “Revival of art in India.”  The Times of India, 30 November 1947, p. 14.

    Gandhy, Kekoo, “The Beginnings of the Art Movement.” City of Dreams, special issue of Seminar, no. 539, August 2003, Accessed 15 April 2021.

    Hoskote, Ranjit. “Kekoo Gandhy by Ranjit Hoskote. In memoriam: Kekoo Gandhy (2 February 1920–10 November 2012).” 10 November 2012, Out of Print Blog, Accessed 15 April 2021.

    Pinto, Jerry. The Art Gallery on Princess Street. Illustrated by Gieve Patel, Kripa B, Sudhir Patwardhan. Pratham Books, 2019. Storyweaver, Accessed 16 June 2021.

    Zitzewitz, Karin. The Perfect Frame: Presenting Modern Indian Art. Stories and Photographs from the Collection of Kekoo Gandhy. Chemould Publications and Arts, 2003.

    Zitzewitz, Karin. “The Perfect Frame: Presenting Modern Indian Art. Stories and Photographs from the Collection of Kekoo Gandhy.” Christieʼs First Auction in India, exh. cat. Christie’s, Mumbai, 2013, pp. 28–37.

    Word Count: 217

  • Private Archive Margit Franz, Sinabelkirchen: Audio file: Kekoo Gandhy in conversation with Khorshed Gandhy, Rashna Imhasly-Gandhy and son of Roger van Damme. Mumbai, n.d. (kindly provided by Rashna Imhasly-Gandhy; transcript Margit Franz). Archival records from personal interviews between the author and Khorshed and Kekoo Gandhy, Mumbai, 30 April to 3 May 2003; 18 to 22 January 2004; 26 April to 12 May 2007; 13 to 15 October 2008; 24 October 2010.

    Bombay Art Society exhibition catalogues from 1938 till 1960.

    Private Archive of late Khorshed & Kekoo Gandhy, Mumbai.

    Times of India Archive via Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: Accessed 18 April 2021.

    Word Count: 90

  • Margit Franz
  • Kekee Manzil, Bandra Band Stand, Bandra, Bombay (now 43-A, Siraj Dokadia Road, HK Bhaba Rd, Mount Mary, Bandra West, Mumbai) (residence 1920-2012); Informal frame-shop, Sepulchre Brothers’ Office, Haroon House, Bazar Gate Street, behind Reserve Bank Building, Fort (now 23A, Haroon House, 294, Perin Nariman St, Fort, Mumbai) (workplace, until 1946); Frame shop, 271 Princess Street, Marine Lines, Bombay (now Shamaldas Gandhi Marg, Navajeevan Wadi, Lohar Chawl, Kalbadevi, Mumbai, Maharashtra) (workplace, since 1946); Jehangir Art Gallery, first floor, 161 B, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai (workplace, 1963–2007).

  • Bombay
  • Margit Franz. "Kekoo Minochair Gandhy." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • Rudolf von Leyden
    GeologistAdvertisement SpecialistJournalistArt CriticArt CollectorCartoonist

    The advertisement expert, Rudolf von Leyden, became a major art critic and art historian in Bombay in the 1940s, advocating an urgent need for modernism in art in post-colonial India.

    Word Count: 30

    Emanuel Schlesinger
    Factory OwnerTechnical DirectorArt CollectorArt Critic

    The art collector Schlesinger provided primarily financial aid by creating working opportunities for young artists in post-independence Bombay, and initiated the corporate culture of buying art.

    Word Count: 26

    Marg. A Magazine of Architecture and Art

    Local and exiled creatives formed the Modern Architectural Research Group to publish a progressive journal of art and architecture in Bombay from 1946 onwards.

    Word Count: 23

    Iconic Photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and Their Associates

    There are two versions of the PAG photo at the opening of M.F. Husain's first solo exhibition in 1950 (published in 1996 and 2003) and two narratives about the opening.

    Word Count: 28

    Schimmel’s Wedding Film 1948

    The film shows Schimmel’s Jewish wedding ceremony at the prestigious Glamis Villa, followed by lunch at the Taj Mahal Hotel. Among the guests were Käthe and Walter Langhammer.

    Word Count: 30

    Open Studio Evenings by Käthe and Walter Langhammer

    The painter Walter Langhammer and his wife Käthe built an informal infrastructure to promote local avant-garde artists and regularly invited them to Open Studio Evenings at their studio.

    Word Count: 29

    GalleryFrame Shop

    Chemould’s history stretches from its beginnings as a manufacturer of chemical mouldings and frames in 1941 over to a hub for art circulation displaying a variety of artists in Bombay.

    Word Count: 30

    University / Higher Education Institute / Research Institute

    The TIFR is one of India’s premier scientific institutions. Inside its buildings, scientists ponder over path-breaking ideas. Also, within its hallowed walls is a fine collection of modern Indian art.

    Word Count: 31

    Bombay Art Society

    One of the oldest art societies in India founded by colonial rulers, Bombay Art Society showcased art students and professional artists from all over India, including the Progressive Artists of Bombay.

    Word Count: 31

    Air India

    Air India was one of the largest art collectors in Bombay. Indian art was used as branding for Air India in international competition right from the start.

    Word Count: 27

    Jehangir Art Gallery
    Art GalleryAuditorium HallLibrary

    Efforts to create spaces for the democratic presentation, discussion and reflection of art in Bombay after independence led to the establishment of the Jehangir Art Gallery in 1952.

    Word Count: 27