Group 1890

Group 1890

Group 1890

Gallery Exhibition

Group 1890

India’s Indigenous Modernism

New York: The Fuller Building, 23 March – 30 September 2017

Mumbai: Kala Ghoda, 19 December 2016 – 28 February 2017

New Delhi: Hauz Khas Village, 5 September – 3 December 2016

A great number of short-lived but nonetheless significant art movements arose in India over the twentieth century as Indian artists struggled with evolving or arriving at their identity as modern artists and an appropriate visual language of Indian modernism. One of the most significant amongst these is the artist collective, Group 1890, formed in 1962 with twelve young artists, led by the artist and art critic J. Swaminathan. The group consisted of J. Swaminathan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Himmat Shah, Jeram Patel, Ambadas, Jyoti Bhatt, Raghav Kaneria, M. Reddeppa Naidu, Rajesh Mehra, Eric Bowen, S. G. Nikam and Balkrishna Patel.

The group held just one exhibition in 1963 in New Delhi that was inaugurated by the country’s Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, but their formulations of the time, including their beliefs and pronouncements on Indian art, were significant. As a collective, Group 1890 faded into oblivion, never regrouping or showing together again. But the achievement of its member artists in later years have profoundly impacted and given fresh direction to Indian modernism, those such as J. Swaminathan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Jeram Patel, Jyoti Bhatt and the sculptors Himmat Shah and Raghav Kaneria, with their widely diverse oeuvres and artistic concerns, the kernel of their artistic achievements traceable to Group 1890.

Group 1890—named not after some earthshattering event or person or period—was unambitiously baptised after a house number in a plotted colony in a small town of Gujarat. Its members ranged from the more educated and sophisticated to those less so. That egalitarianism should have been, and for the length of its existence probably was, its strength. But, it is probably right to ask whether its twelve representatives were convinced of the group’s consequence and of each other’s merit ahead of the only exhibition it organised in New Delhi. Did they have common goals, a path they wanted to walk, hands astride even if not held together? They might have succeeded in pulling off a coup in getting India’s Prime Minister to open its resounding debut, but if sales were to be a measure of its success, it was already a damp squib. Octavio Paz may have mentored them on some intellectual plane—even if that was a result of a cerebral relationship formed by and with J. Swaminathan—but at another level, perhaps, they were ahead of their times. This exhibition maps their coming together followed by their individual careers in a significant documentation of their individual as well as group efforts and success.



Balkrishna Patel

Eric Bowen

Gulammohammed Sheikh

Himmat Shah

J. Swaminathan

Jeram Patel

Jyoti Bhatt

Raghav Kaneria

Rajesh Mehra

Reddeppa Naidu

S. G. Nikam

‘India’s Indigenous Modernism unveils, for the lay viewer, the radical aesthetic of Group 1890. The ideas and the works that emerged from this collective set a benchmark for many upcoming artists’

– Sunday Guardian Live, 2016

exhibition highlights

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