‘Quality, not commercial success, of artists is what matters’

Rajeev Lochan, a gifted artist who has a genius for transfiguring the mundane in his paintings, has also carved a space for himself as an efficient art administrator.  As director of India’s premier art institute, the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, Lochan has ensured that this autonomous institute continues to collect, preserve and showcase masterpieces of modern and contemporary Indian art. One of the key objectives of the NGMA, which functions under the Department of Culture, is to make viewing and understanding of modern and contemporary Indian art a joyful and enriching experience. The NGMA has also been instrumental in recognising works of young, talented artists from time to time. In this interview with Hoihnu Hauzel, Lochan speaks about the institute’s initiatives on promoting emerging artists and the NGMA’s guiding ethos of showcasing the best in contemporary art.

(Excerpts from the interview)

Q) How important are emerging artists for the NGMA?

A) The emerging artists and their creative endeavours have always remained of great importance to the NGMA.  The essential role of the NGMA is that of a repository showcasing the evolution and trajectories of Modern and Contemporary Art of our country for the coming generations.

Q) How many shows do you have at the NGMA in a year? And what percentage of shows is dedicated for showing of works by young and emerging artists?

A) To promote young and emerging artists is essentially the role of Lalit Kala Akademi;   however, the NGMA has been instrumental in recognising the works of young, talented artists in the past and shall continue to do so in future.  The NGMA has been organising the retrospective exhibitions of the senior masters as well as exhibitions of well-known talented artists. The calendar of events and exhibitions organised at the NGMA is drawn up, based on the recommendations and the prior approval of the Advisory Committee or the Ministry which comprises analytical historical exhibitions, retrospectives and solo shows of the exhibitions, exhibitions under cultural exchange programmes along with new emerging trends apart from the permanent collection that it displays.   However, the NGMA organised 18 exhibitions during the last year which covered all the above mentioned areas.

Q. Are there any upcoming shows of young artists in the NGMA’s calendar?

A. Several Solo shows of young important and talented artists are proposed to be organised at the NGMA, New Delhi.

Q) The present show, Skoda Prize Show, has interesting and unconventional works by 20 young artists. Do you think there is a new audience for such new and experimental works? Would works by young artists such as them, change the dynamics of the market? Or, will they set a trend?

A) The Skoda Prize Show was duly approved by the Advisory Committee of the NGMA, New Delhi, and marks those trajectories that contemporary Indian Art is mapping.  The NGMA does not organise exhibitions taking into account the commercial success of artists, but essentially on the quality of their experimentation, content and approach and their contribution, and this was the very purpose of organizing the Skoda Exhibition.

Q) What kind of arrangement does the gallery (NGMA) has with individual artists per show? Is there any gallery fee?

A) Although the role of promoting young unknown but extremely talented artists falls within the scope of the LKA which is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Culture, the NGMA has always endeavored to showcase the best, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Committee of NGMA.  The NGMA does not ever rent its galleries to individual artists or institutions for their exhibitions, but organises them in its totality or in collaboration, covering all the areas of its engagements and mandate.


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