Established in 1936, Delhi’s Dhoomimal Art Gallery was the first-of-its-kind platform through which many Indian modernists reached out to prospective buyers and made a name for themselves. Bhumika Popli writes about India’s oldest private art gallery.
Not many remember today that Delhi’s art scene began with a small stationery store back in the 1930s. The store, which opened in 1936 in Connaught Place, was called Dhoomimal Dharamdas Stationery and Military Printers, and it was owned by Ram Babu Jain, an art aficionado. Jain supported many local artists by providing them with colours, paper, brushes, at a minimal price, or sometimes pro bono.
Often his artist customers, in a gesture of gratitude, would repay the shop-owner with their paintings. In around two years after the store’s inauguration, Jain had amassed a sizeable collection of art. The owner needed a larger space for these. So he took a decision to establish India’s first private gallery, which he decided to name the Dhoomimal Art Gallery.
It has now been more than 80 years since the Dhoomimal gallery was first established. And its history is intertwined with the history of Indian modernism. In its catalogue, the gallery boasts of its decades-long association with artists like Francis Newton Souza, Jamini Roy, Sailoz Mookherjea, Abdur Rahman Chugtai, Bhabesh Chandra Sanyal, and Ram Kumar among others.