Gallerist Speak: Uday Jain, Director Dhoomimal Art Gallery

By Jyotsna Sharma   1 Jun, 2016

Dhoomimal Art Gallery (DMG), established in 1936, will be celebrating 80 years of existence next January. I had an opportunity to meet and speak with Mr. Uday Jain who is the Director of the gallery now.

He told me that they are planning yearlong celebrations starting end of January 2017 with an exhibition at the Lalit Kala Academy. The exhibition would then travel to New York, London and Dubai. The Ravi Jain Memorial Foundation also completes 25 years in 2017 and they plan to celebrate with all the awardees from the previous years.

Further, they would be renovating their existing space in Connaught Place to make use of all three floors of the building for different genres of artwork. He mentioned that they are keen to add younger artists to their line –up. In fact, some of the awardees have become a part of the permanent line-up at Dhoomimal.

I asked him to tell me how the gallery started. He told me his grandfather (Sh. Ram Babu Jain) started a stationery / printing shop in the 1930’s in Delhi. Since he was very fond of art and artists, he used to print monograms of their work and they would gift him some of their artworks as gestures of gratitude. In addition to this, he would host them at well-known eateries (like the famous Wenger’s), would always encourage them, and also help them out monetarily. In those early years, there wasn’t much of a market for art. In fact, there were no contracts / agreements with the artists, it was all on good faith and trust.

In the 1940’s, Dhoomimal gallery had started exhibiting the works of these artists in their space. By the 1950’s it had become a lot more organized – more like a gallery set-up. Around 1957, Ravi Jain opened a gallery in the United States; Shanti Dave and Husain showed in that space. He ran it for about four to five years, but because there was not much of a market for Indian art in America at that time and also issues with logistics, he decided to return to India in early 1960 and join his elder brother in managing the Delhi gallery. According to Uday, 1970 1980’s was the most glorious phase of the gallery; this was the time when J. Swaminathan and Souza were very involved with the gallery. Ravi Jain had great love for the Arts; he believed in nurturing his artists and had a true artist –dealer relationship with them, akin to the great dealers of Europe. Uday’s mother, Uma Jain, a lawyer by training gave up her law practice to run the gallery after Ravi Jain’s demise and she operated on the same principals as her husband.

Uday feels that this artist- dealer loyalty is key to the long-term success of a gallery. He believes that in modern day India, the newer galleries want to rise quickly so they deal in ‘saleable’ artists, instead of having a line-up of a few artists whose work they like and identify with, they sell ‘everything & everybody’s work as long as it is saleable’. They are not concerned with nurturing artists – theirs is more like a shop where one can buy the latest trend. It is this very practice that needs to change for the Indian art industry and artists to truly grow.

In addition to doing up their existing space in CP, Dhoomimal is looking at opening a museum in the near future; we wish them all the best.