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TIFR

  • Name:
    TIFR
  • Alternative names:

    Tata Institute for Fundamental Research, The TIFR Art Collection

  • Kind of Organisation:
    University / Higher Education Institute / Research Institute
  • Introduction:

    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

  • Content:

    The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), one of India’s premier scientific institutions, stands at the southernmost tip of the sprawling metropolis of Bombay, overlooking the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea. Inside its grand buildings, every day, scientists ponder over path-breaking ideas and discoveries in physics, mathematics, biology and computer science. Also within its hallowed walls and corridors is housed one of the most magnificent collections of modern Indian art.
    The TIFR art collection represents the culmination of the wide interests and ideas of its founder Homi Jehangir Bhabha. With over 250 artworks, the collection was built between the early 1950s and the early 1970s.
    In his bid to bring about this beautiful synthesis of art and science, Bhabha sought out significant works of the Progressive Artists Group (PAG). The PAG, founded in 1947, heralded a new movement in Indian art, promising to overthrow the conservative artists of the 1940s. The founding members included K.H. Ara, Sadanand Bakre, H.A. Gade, M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza and F.N. Souza. V.S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar and Bal Chavda were also members of the group.
    An avid lover of art and an artist himself, Bhabha was an insider within Bombay’s art world. The works were bought either directly from the artists or from art shows. Kekoo Gandhy, who built one of independent India’s first galleries, started holding special previews for Bhabha in his frame shop, Chemould Frames. Gandhy recalls Bhabha’s visits to his shop, “We had an unwritten agreement with Dr Bhabha that we would call him the day before the exhibition, and that he be given the first pick. The other part of it was that Dr Bhabha would drop in from his home at Kenilworth and Roshan [Kalapesi] would introduce young artists to him. He would ask for the frames to be held against the paintings and our chap would have to hold it. Sometimes Bhabha would forget that it was being held for a long time.” (Chatterjee/Gandhy 2010, 11).
    The TIFR art collection was perhaps the result of one man’s vision and interests. However, Bhabha also sought advice from a small group of art-insiders. Among them was Rudi von Leyden, who had a crucial impact on Bhabha’s choice of art. Von Leyden also exhibited great affinity for the works of the PAG. Among the major paintings adorning the TIFR walls is The Critic (1943) by the Austrian-born artist Walter Langhammer. The subject of the painting is von Leyden, admiring a classical Indian stone sculpture. Langhammer had also found refuge in Bombay shortly before the Second World War. He was one of PAG’s leading patrons.
    Von Leyden was also part of the selection committee for a mural competition funded by the TIFR. In late 1962, Bhabha invited several artists, both young and established, to submit entries for a mural covering the 40-foot long space in the entrance foyer of the institute. The other members of the committee were Bhabha’s companion Phiroza Wadia, the mathematician K. Chandrasekharan, the art historian Karl Khandalavala and Bhabha himself. The competition saw submissions from Jamini Roy, K.H. Ara, N.S. Bendre, Satish Gujral, M.F. Husain, R.D. Raval, K. Hebbar, B. Narayan, B. Prabha and G. Solegaonkar. The final shortlisted artists were Husain and Raval. Finally, Husain’s Bharat Bhagya Vidhata was chosen. All the other canvasses from the competition still adorn the walls of the institute.
    Bhabha’s vision for the future of science as well as art in India was decidedly inclusive. In 1951, he had found a position in the institute for the cosmic ray physicist Bernard Peters. Polish-born Peters had first fled Nazi oppression in Germany for the United States, where he encountered new persecution because of his leftist ideas during the McCarthy era. Bhabha had welcomed him to TIFR and Peters went on to spend nine years working in Bombay.
    In 1947, Bhabha wrote a letter to the minister of education, Maulana Azad. In the letter, he argues the case of Magda Nachman Acharya, a Russian painter in exile in Bombay. Nachman Acharya’s works had been rejected by a selection committee, citing her nationality, for an exhibition of Indian art in London in 1947. He writes, “Art like Science knows no frontiers and we should not only put any impediments in the way of foreign artists coming to this country but should rather encourage them to do so provided they are people of eminence and have a contribution to make to our cultural and intellectual life. We all hope that with its newly achieved freedom, India will become the leading country of Asia and one of the leaders of the world in cultural matters, and it can achieve this in the artistic sphere not by a mere repetition of its ancient forms but by the creation of new art forms, possibly through a synthesis of the ancient Indian and European traditions in art.” (Letter to Maulana Azad 1947, n.p.)

    Word Count: 832

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    1 Homi Bhabha Road, Navy Nagar, Colaba, Mumbai.

  • Signature Image:
    The TIFR building (Photo: Ananya Dasgupta, 2021).
  • Media:
    The TIFR premises and gardens (Photo: Ananya Dasgupta, 2021).
    Colonnade on the way to the TIFR entry (Photo: Ananya Dasgupta, 2021).
    Outside view of the TIFR foyer with the mural Bharat Bhagya Vidhata by M.F. Husain, 1963 (Photo: Ananya Dasgupta, 2021).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Chatterjee, Mortimer. “Interview of Kekoo Gandhy.” The TIFR Art Collection, edited by Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research / Marg Foundation, 2010, p. 11.

    Chatterjee, Mortimer, and Tara Lal. The TIFR Art Collection. Tata Institute of Fundamental Research / Marg Foundation, 2010.

    Chowdhury, Indira, and Ananya Dasgupta. A Masterful Spirit: Homi J. Bhabha 1909–1966. Penguin Books, 2010.

    Word Count: 54

  • Archives and Sources:

    Letter to Maulana Azad, July 24, 1947, © TIFR Archives, Mumbai.

    Word Count: 8

  • Author:
    Ananya Dasgupta
  • Date of Founding:
    01-06-1945
  • Participants (selection):

    Homi Jehangir Bhabha, M.F. Husain, Rudi von Leyden, Walter Langhammer

  • Metropolis:
    Bombay
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Ananya Dasgupta. "TIFR." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2951/object/5145-7554201, last modified: 27-08-2021.
  • 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

    Rudolf and Nena von Leyden’s farewell party for Francis Newton. Showing all members of the Progressive Artists’ Group. Front from left: PAG = M.F. Husain, S.K. Bakre, H.A. Gade, K.H. Ara, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza with writer Mulk Raj Anand (1st right front). Back: Käthe Langhammer (with lace collar dress), Rudolf von Leyden with his wife Nena (centre), Walter Langhammer (2nd right), Ebrahim Alkazi (theatre pioneer, 1st right back), Bombay 1949. (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).
    Letterhead of The Hand. Commercial Art Studio Rudolf von Leyden, 1934 (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).Advertisement for Agfa by Rudolf von Leyden (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).Bombay Art Society Committees 1952/53, reprinted in Bombay Art Society 62th Annual Exhibition 1952–53 (at Jehangir Art Gallery), Bombay 1952, n.p. (Photo: Margit Franz 2021).Two modernists meet: Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (left) and Rudolf von Leyden (right), 1950s. (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).The article by Rudolf and Nena von Leyden “Ganjifa, the Playing Cards of India” (Marg, vol. 3, no. 4, 1949, p. 36; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Indian President Zakir Husain (left), President of India, opened the first Triennial for contemporary art on 10 February 1968 in the Lalit Kala Gallery in New Delhi. In the picture on the left with jury member Rudolf von Leyden (right). (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes; All Rights Reserved).
    Bombay
    Homi Jehangir Bhabha
    ScientistCollectorArtist

    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.

    Word Count: 30

    Homi Bhabha in front of one of his paintings, Photo: Lettice Ramsey, n.d. (Courtesy of Stephen Burch, All Right Reserved).
    Homi Bhabha, working on his painting inspired by the Countess’ Aria Dovo Sono i belli moment' from Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro, Photo: Lettice Ramsey, n.d. (Courtesy of Stephen Burch, All Right Reserved).
    Bombay
    Marg. A Magazine of Architecture and Art
    Magazine

    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

    Cover of the first issue, detail (Marg, vol. 1, no. 1, 1946, reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).
    Cover of the first issue (Marg, vol. 1, no. 1, 1946, reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Advert MARG means Pathway (Marg, vol. 1, no. 2, 1947, p. 110; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Editors’ page of the first Marg issue (Marg, vol. 1, no. 1, 1946, p. 1; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Excerpt from “Architecture and You” (Marg, vol. 1, no. 1, 1946, p. 10; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).A collage of exiles’ contributions to Marg (All images reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Editorial “Planning and Dreaming.” (Marg, vol. 1, no. 1, 1946, p. 4f).
    Bombay
    Open Studio Evenings by Käthe and Walter Langhammer
    Salon

    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

    Open evening at the Langhammer’s, from left: Walter Langhammer, unknown woman, Kekoo Gandhy, Wayne Hartwell (American cultural affairs diplomat) n.d. (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).
    Dinner party at the Langhammer’s studio amidst his paintings (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).Käthe and Walter Langhammer (far left) attending an Indian dinner, late 1930s/early 1940s (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).Opening of the annual Langhammer exhibition by Sir Cowasjee Jehangir in the Convocation Hall, 27 November 1949 (from left: Mr. C.V. Oak, Rani Maharaj Singh, Walter Langhammer, Sir Cowasjee Jehangir, Käthe Langhammer) (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).Photography Morning in the Great Mosque in Ajmer (translation by the author) by Käthe Langhammer, Rajasthan, 1940s (© Archive Margit Franz: Langhammer Photo Archive; All Rights Reserved).Käthe Langhammer in South India. They toured all of India for The Times of India Annual. Photo by Walter Langhammer (© Archive Margit Franz: Langhammer Photo Archive; All Rights Reserved).Invitation card for the Langhammers’ farewell party, April 1957 (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).Entrance to Langhammer’s residence at 20 Nepean Sea Road (Photo: Margit Franz, 2007; All Rights Reserved).
    Bombay
    Air India
    Airline

    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

    Advertisement in Marg Magazine with the first Air India poster by Walter Langhammer in 1946 (Page from Marg vol. 1, no. 2, January 1947 has been reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).
    Air India poster commemorating the first international flight London–Geneva–Cairo–Bombay, by Walter Langhammer, 1948 (Air India, poster no. 3, 1973. Photo: Margit Franz 2010).The Centaur as the Air India International emblem on the roof of the (new) Air India Building at Nariman Point (© Margit Franz, 2010).First Air India Mural Triumphant Aerial Return of Ram & Sita from Sri Lanka. “The spacious lounge at Air India new premises in Bombay. The colourful mural was executed by Shiavax Chavda, the well-known artist" (Marg, vol. 1, no. 4, July 1947; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India).Jal Cowasji (middle) and gallery owner Kekoo Gandhy (far right) in Chemould Gallery, 1960s (Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; © Gandhy Archive, Mumbai; All Rights Reserved).Air India poster by F.M. Husain, mid 1950s (Air India 1973, no. 28, Photo: Margit Franz 2010).
    Bombay
    Chemould
    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

    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).
    Bombay
    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.

    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).
    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).
    Bombay
    Magda Nachman Acharya
    ArtistTheatre DesignerIllustratorTeacher

    The political turmoil of the twentieth century took Magda Nachman from St. Petersburg to Moscow to the Russian countryside, then to Berlin during the 1920s and 1930s and, finally, to Bombay.

    Word Count: 31

    Photo of Magda Nachman Acharya in front of her house on Malabar Hill, n.d., detail (Courtesy of Sophie Seifalian, All Rights Reserved).
    Magda Nachman Acharya, City landscape, around 1937, exh. cat. The Bombay Art Society, Bombay, 1937, p. 13 (Photo: Lina Bernstein 2014).Magda Nachman Acharya, A portrait of Kamal Wood, around 1944 (© Private collection, USA, All Rights Reserved).Magda Nachman Acharya, A Young Man, 1945 (© Private collection, Israel, All Rights Reserved).Magda Nachman Acharya, Landscape in Matheran, 1945 (© Roshan Cooper collection, Pune, All Rights Reserved).
    Bombay
    Iconic Photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and Their Associates
    Photograph

    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

    The iconic photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and their associates, 1950 (Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz © Gandhy Archive, Mumbai; All Rights Reserved). First row: (seated, from left) Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, Siloo Bharucha, Renu Khanna, K.H. Ara, M.F. Husain (in black headgear, seated in front of everyone else), Bal Chhabda, unknown, G.M. Hazarnis (holding folder). Second row: (seated, from left) unknown, unknown, Laxman Pai, Käthe Langhammer (black dress with white framed collar), Emanuel Schlesinger. Third row: (standing, from left) Dr. Percy Brown, Khorshed Gandhy, T.A. Schinzel (behind Mrs. Gandhy), Krishen Khanna (in striped tie), Sadanand Bakre (with glasses, just behind Khanna), D.G. Kulkarni (with glasses, near Bakre), V.S. Gaitonde (to Kulkarni’s left), A.A. Amelkar, Tyeb Mehta, Shiavax Chavda (with hands folded), Walter Langhammer (in dark tie), Kekoo Gandhy, Manishi Dey. Last row: (standing) all four men are unknown.
    First publication of the iconic photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and their associates in the catalogue for the inauguration of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) Mumbai, 1996 (Photo: Yashodhara Dalmia, 2020).Another moment from the same lineup: the historic snapshot from Khorshed and Kekoo Gandhy’s archive on the front-page of their book The Perfect Frame. Presenting Modern Indian Art. Stories and Photographs from the collection of Kekoo Gandhy (Zitzewitz 2003, front page).Dr. Percy Brown, Käthe Langhammer and M.F. Husain in front of Husain´s ground-breaking painting Man during the evening of the opening on 3 February 1950 (Dalmia 2001, 103; authorized by Yashodhara Dalmia).
    Bombay
    One Man exhibition and subsequent trial, Akbar Padamsee
    Court Case

    Akbar Padamsee’s solo exhibition in Bombay in 1954 was overshadowed by his arrest on charge of displaying obscene pictures. The subsequent court case drew support from across the art world.

    Word Count: 30

    Invitation Akbar Padamsee Solo Show 29.04–4.05.1954, Jehangir Art Gallery (Courtesy of Bhanumati Padamsee, Akbar Padamsee Archive, Vinayak Aangan, Mumbai).
    Solo show at Jehangir Art Gallery from 29 to 4 May 1954. (Courtesy of Bhanumati Padamsee, Akbar Padamsee Archive, Vinayak Aangan, Mumbai).Akbar Padamsee, Lovers, 1952, 157.5 x 81.3 cm, oil on board (Courtesy of Bhanumati Padamsee, Akbar Padamsee Archive, Vinayak Aangan, Mumbai).Akbar Padamsee, Lovers I, 1952, 136 x 110 cm, oil on board (Courtesy of Bhanumati Padamsee, Akbar Padamsee Archive, Vinayak Aangan, Mumbai).Akbar Padamsee, Lovers II, 1953, 121.92 x 60.96 cm, oil on canvas. (Courtesy of Bhanumati Padamsee, Akbar Padamsee Archive, Vinayak Aangan, Mumbai).Newspaper report, “Artist arrested for displaying obscene pictures”, The Times of India, 2 May, 1954 (Courtesy of Bhanumati Padamsee, Akbar Padamsee Archive, Vinayak Aangan, Mumbai).Newspaper report, “Alleged Obscene Paintings Given Back to Artist”, The Indian Express, 4 May, 1954 (Courtesy of Bhanumati Padamsee, Akbar Padamsee Archive, Vinayak Aangan, Mumbai).
    Bombay