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  • 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.
  • Chemould
  • Chemould Moulding Manufacturing Co Pvt Ltd., Chemould Frames, Chemould Gallery

  • 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.

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  • In 1947 Kekoo Gandhy, the founder of Chemould Frames, wrote, “The frame should enhance, embellish, complement and emphasize the picture, without overpowering the subject. It should act as a sort of impresario, the picture always remaining the star performer.” (Gandhy 1947, 90).
    Chemould itself became an impresario of sorts, organising and often financing events with the right mix of social gathering and patronage; a producer of visual art presentations, sometimes combined with literature, poetry, film and music. Chemould’s path from frame making to designing artistic frames, to housing and selling art from the 1940s to 1960s, is historically unique in the post-independence cosmopolitan atmosphere of Bombay; and developed from this special constellation.
    During and after the Second World War, some members of the Western ex-pat community and refugees from Austria and Germany formed a milieu of art appreciation and promotion in multicultural Bombay. Kekoo Gandhy’s interaction with them expanded the Gandhy family business from tobacco traders via the ownership of a chemical moulding factory to a frame shop to a gallery.
    When Kekoo Gandhy could not return to his economics studies at the University of Cambridge at the beginning of the Second World War, he set up a chemical moulding factory in December 1941 together with his brother Russy and Roger van Damme, a Belgian émigré with frames manufacturing know-how.
    Meeting Italian Prisoners of War (POWs) involved in the British Army’s Murart Project (to keep artists busy with murals throughout Southeast Asia during internment) was Kekoo’s first encounter with artists. The supply of frames laid the grounds for a business relationship that extended to personal friendship. Until his last days, the group portrait of the Italian POWs painters hung on the veranda of his family house, Kekee Manzil.
    The meeting with Joe Schimmel in Matheran, who introduced him to the Austrian painter Walter Langhammer (Khorshed’s letter to Schimmel’s daughter), marked a significant step into the Bombay art world. Kekoo recalled in a conversation with the son of his business partner van Damme and his daughter Rashna Imhasly-Gandhy:

    “As an impressionist he [Langhammer] was very conscious of colour. […] He saw the light of India, the blazing colour of India. He was absolutely thrilled and some of the works that he saw of the young artists. He saw a great potential and that was what he sold to me. You are not going to make frames for me, but I envisage a great contemporary art movement in the years ahead. I am convinced of it. And he passed on that enthusiasm to me. Luckily I met with no opposition from your father. It meant going to another field.[…]
    At that time the pattern of dealings was that in Haroon house Langhammer would leave his paintings. I would take them in my car, I would be coming in the afternoon […] Next morning I would go to the factory, have the frames made in the factory, there was no shop, and bring it back after two-three days, he would come and take delivery. […] He wanted to prove to me that what he said was a reality […] So he would send Raza, and Ara and all these people to the Haroon house oval. And I would be loaded with these paintings, take them next morning to the factory, have the frames made. Till a time was reached when it was impossible […] that the Sepulchre office [Van Damme’s head office] turned into a frame shop” (Gandhy Archive, n.d.).

    As a consequence, the Chemould Frames shop was opened in the former Gandhy family warehouse in 271 Princess Street on 1 March 1946.
    In the final years of the war, Kekoo and his newly wedded wife Khorshed (née Adenwalla) had become members of the Bombay artists’ circle and had established contacts at exhibition openings and formal and informal meetings. By 1947, Kekoo was an active member of the Bombay Art Society Committee and began organising exhibitions for them.
    Chemould had entered the showrooms organising its first exhibition of Ara’s paintings at the Chetana Culture Centre, a vegetarian restaurant-cum-gallery in the Fort area, in November 1946. Soon, the exhibition activities extended to other social spaces in the metropolis with shows in the Taj Mahal Hotel (i.e., Shiavax Chavda in 1954) or in the so-called “Metro Art Corner” in the newly opened Metro Cinema. Chemould also began showing Bombay artists in other parts of India. In 1950, Chemould opened an art gallery-cum-frame shop on Park Street in Calcutta, formalizing the model used in Bombay that shows art informally in-store. Chemould’s employee Roshan Kalapesi assembled paintings by Langhammer, Murart, S.H. Raza, K.H. Ara or M.F. Husain in the shop by framing them for sale. Much later, the Kunika Chemould Gallery was set up in the renowned Central Cottage Industries Emporium in Janpath in New Delhi, to serve the capital’s growing ex-pat and diplomatic community.
    Commercially, Chemould focused on selling old master reproductions, prints and modern paintings in Chemould frames on Princess Street and in a showroom in Pundoles of Flora Fountain. At the same time, Chemould tried to expand its exhibition activities, which were triggered by the success of some of its informal shows. In August 1961, a show by Husain in the newly opened showroom on Princess Street, met with so much interest that sales expanded from 5 000 to 20 000 rupees a year.
    “The small, awkwardly shaped area on the first floor of Jehangir Art Gallery has been smartly renovated and air-conditioned to become home of Gallery Chemould” (Ezekiel 1963, 9). On 16 September 1963, Lady Hirabai Cowasji opened the official Chemould Gallery. Recent works by well-known artists such as Satish Gujral, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna or N.S. Bendre were shown in the new Chemould Gallery, while an exhibition of lesser-known painters from across India and Nepal was displayed in the Jehangir Art Gallery, to mark the inauguration of the Chemould Gallery. In the years to come, Chemould established itself as an art dealer as well as a gallery for exhibitions. In 1947 it had awarded the “Chemould Prize” of 50 rupees for the most outstanding work in a medium of modern Indian art. 16 years later, it had created an official space for reflection, communication and criticism of modern art and became one of the catalysts in the Bombay art scene.
    There are many reasons for Chemould’s success story. It is closely linked to the Gandhy’s distinct symbiosis. “Khorshed ran it while Kekoo dreamt, talked, shared his infectious enthusiasms, and formed coalitions and platforms”, as Ranjit Hoskote wrote retrospectively (Hoskote 2012). Due to Korshed’s conscientious business sense and Kekoo’s high level of networking, such as in the Rotary Club or the Bombay Art Society, they were able to introduce artists profitably with collectors. Influential people from Bombay visited regularly, such as Homi Bhabha, who became one of Chemould’s first customers and supporters of modern art. Husain’s connection is reflected in the design of the old logo and font.
    The Chemould Gallery also made a significant contribution to creating general art awareness in Bombay, and was continually involved in the Indian art scene, promoting talent and offering artists and art lovers a meeting place where dialogues could be initiated. Its space was occupied by a bigger idea than buying and selling art in commerce. It was inhabited by the idea of building friendly and personal relationships with buyers, prospects and the common man.

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  • Sepulchre Brothers’ Office, Haroon House, Bazar Gate Street, behind Reserve Bank Building, Fort (now 23A, Haroon House, 294, Perin Nariman St, Fort, Mumbai) (Informal Frame-Shop until 1946); 271 Princess Street, Marine Lines, Bombay (now Shamaldas Gandhi Marg, Navajeevan Wadi, Lohar Chawl, Kalbadevi, Mumbai) ( Frame shop since 1946); Jehangir Art Gallery, first floor, 161 B, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai (Gallery 1963–2007); Chemould Prescott Road, Queens Mansion, 3rd floor, G. Talwatkar Marg, Fort, Mumbai 400001 (Gallery since 2007).

  • Chemould Frames shop advertising with a painting by Jamini Roy, 1946, detail (Marg, vol. 1, no. 2, January 1947, p. 104; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).
  • Chemould Frames shop advertising with a painting by Jamini Roy, 1946. (Marg, vol. 1, no. 2, January 1947, p. 104; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).
    Murals of Italian POW in the St. Francis Church in Dehradun, 2005 (Photo: Margit Franz; All Rights Reserved).
    Photo of the portrait of the Italian POW painters engaged in Murart, Kekee Manzil, 2003 (Photo: Margit Franz; All Rights Reserved).
    Letter from Khorshed Gandhy to Carol Ross, 20 February 2009 (© Private Archive Joe Schimmel, Cape Town; All Rights Reserved).
    Chemould’s successful couple: level-headed Khorshed (woman standing), networking, enthusiastic Kekoo Gandhy (man sitting, chatting), at Leydens’ exhibition, 1948 (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).
    A Chemould level on the back of a Chemould art frame (© Private Archive Joe Schimmel, Cape Town; All Rights Reserved).
    Opening of Chemould Gallery. Khorshed Gandhy (3. right, first row sitting), September 1963 (Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz © Gandhy Archive, Mumbai; All Rights Reserved).
  • Bhatia, Sidharth. “The Accidental Gallerist and the Making of Indian Modern Art.” 8 July 2020, The Wire, Accessed 4 February 2021.

    Dogramaci, Burcu, and Rachel Lee. “Refugee Artists, Architects and Intellectuals Beyond Europe in the 1930s and 1940s: Experiences of Exile in Istanbul and Bombay.” ABE Journal, no. 14−15, 2019, doi: 10.4000/abe.5949. Accessed 4 February 2021.

    Ezekiel, Nissim. “Gallery Chemould Inaugurated: Artists Old And New.”  The Times of India, 19 September 1963, p. 9.

    Gandhy, Kekoo. “The Beginnings of the Art Movement.” City of Dreams, special issue of Seminar, no. 528, August 2003, Accessed 21 February 2021.

    Ghnady, Keko [Gandhy, Kekoo]. “Picture Frames.” Marg, vol. 1, no. 3, 1947, pp. 90–91.

    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 24 February 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: 205

  • Kekoo Gandhy and Indira Chowdhury. Oral History with Kekoo Gandhy, TIFR Archive, Mumbai, 22 November 2006.
    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.
    Private Archive of late Khorshed & Kekoo Gandhy, Mumbai.
    Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes.
    The Times of India Archive via Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: Accessed March 2021.

    Word Count: 104

  • Margit Franz; Mareike Schwarz
  • 23-12-1941
  • Kekoo Gandhy, Khorshed Gandhy, Homi Jehangir Bhabha, Walter Langhammer, S.H. Ara, N.S. Bendre,Shiavax Chavda, Nissim Ekeziel,  M.F. Husain, Satish Gujral, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna, S.H. Raza.

  • Bombay
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  • Margit Franz; Mareike Schwarz. "Chemould." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • Kekoo Minochair Gandhy
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Homi Jehangir Bhabha

    Homi Jehangir Bhabha was a world class scientist, institution builder, an artist and art connoisseur. His vision for growth of science and art has had significant impact in post-colonial India.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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