It is rare to see the most iconic works of an entire generation of distinguished painters of the country displayed in one room. But this is exactly the kind of space that opened up for the city’s art lovers on Monday, when the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery was inaugurated Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) in Colaba.
Boasting of reputed names in the art world – from Tyeb Mehta and MF Husain to Syed Raza and Vasudeo Gaitonde – the gallery houses the entire private collection of city-based cotton trader and art collector Jehangir Nicholson, who died in 2001 while still scouting for space in south Mumbai to build his museum.
“The opening of the gallery in this museum marks the fulfillment of Nicholson’s dream to bequeath to the city a unique and rich collection of art,” said Cyrus Guzder, a trustee of the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation (JNAF), which has been looking after the collection of 800 paintings and 100 sculptures by more than 250 artists, since the collector’s demise.
The collection has now been acquired on a 15-year loan by the CSMVS, which has dedicated 4,500 sq ft in its east wing to create space for a gallery and storage rooms.
While the storage space will be open to any researcher who wishes to see the entire collection, the gallery will showcase curated exhibitions from the collection every six months.
The opening exhibition displays 27 paintings and four sculptures by artists from the Bombay Progressive Art Group and others who have defined Mumbai since the 1950s, including Tyeb Mehta, KH Ara, Nalini Malani and Anju Dodiya.
“The museum so far had a small modern art collection of artists from the 1930s to 60s. This collection, which has art from the 60s to 2001, fits in perfectly,” said Zasha Colah, the curator for the foundation, who describes Nicholson as a passionate collector who bought paintings right up to the last month before his death.
“For him, collection was about a warm-blooded dialectic with the artists themselves, and he bought paintings only after closely following the progress of an artist for years,” said art critic Partha Mitter who inaugurated the gallery.