Asia’s Art Cities According to Collectors: Tarana Sawhney on Delhi

ART Power HK

Editor’s Note: There are many sides to modern Asian metropolis, and just as many ways to visit them. For collectors and art lovers, the best way to explore new urban scenarios and learn about a country’s cultural, social and political situation is certainly through contemporary art. However, the question for those who set foot in a new city for the first time is always the same: where do I start my artistic adventure from?

Here at CoBo we have a few, very exciting cues; for our Asia’s Art Cities Guide we have asked the most authoritative local collectors to share their best kept secrets about their own city’s art scene. Whether it is Kim Camacho’s Manila, the Jakarta art scene through the eyes of Tom Tandio, Adrian Cheng’s recommendations about the new cultural districts in Hong Kong, Disaphol Chansiri’s anticipation of the two new biennales in Thailand, Ivan Pun’s exploration in Myanmar, Ichrio Fukano’s highlights on art and lifestyle in Tokyo, the exclusive insights of Tarana Sawhney on Delhi, Higgin Kim’s insider’s take on Seoul, or Zheng Hao’s all-time favourite Shanghai, we want to give you a foray into what these Asian fast-developing cities have to offer.

In conjunction with our collectors art tours, we want to bring you straight to the galleries, art spaces, or informal hangouts that will influence trends for the Asian art scene to come, to see by yourself in which direction the artistic stream is going. If it’s true that exploring the Asian art scene means getting off the beaten path and taking an unconventional look at these vibrant hubs, then wearing the lens of these bunch of top-notch insiders is the best way to do it.

Tarana Sawhney is a founding member of the NGO Khushii and on the Advisory Board of the Foundation of Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) which promotes emerging artists and associated art professionals. She has led the fund-raising processes for the charities that she is associated. Tarana is also a Member of the South Asian Acquisitions Committee of the Tate Modern, and has been instrumental in recent collection of art from the region, which has formed a part of the Tate’s permanent collection. With her husband Tarun, they have built one of the most spectacular collections in the region. They live in New Delhi with their two children.



Tarana Sawhney – Delhi


How would you describe the art scene in Delhi?

The art scene is Delhi is very vibrant and has been for several decades. Besides the top galleries that are located here, like Vadehra Art Gallery, Nature Morte, Gallery Espace and Talwar Gallery, we also have the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), which has been instrumental in showing significant retrospectives of key Indian artists and holds an impressive permanent collection. This, along with an art district in Lado Sarai and the many talks that are held at the Indian Habitat Centre and India International Centre, is making culture and art thrive in the city.


Who are you favourite artists? 

I tend to lean more towards contemporary art and our artists stand on parallel ground globally. Amongst them, I love Zarina Hashmi, Atul Dodiya and Jitish Kallat. Rathin Barman and Rana Begum are some of the younger artists who are establishing themselves firmly in the South Asian Contemporary world.


Where is your favourite art space in town, and why?

I love our historic buildings, so NGMA and Bikaner House pose a beautiful backdrop to exhibitions and lend a historical perspective to contemporary practices.


What is your favourite gallery in town, and why?

Vadehra Art Gallery in Defence Colony is my favourite because they have two spaces showing modern art and contemporary art respectively. Mr Arun Vadehra has been the top authority in the country for decades as far as the progressives and moderns are concerned. The contemporary program, handled by Roshini and Parul Vadehra, is equally strong with the top artists being represented.


Where is the best place for an authentic Indian cuisine dinner and what are the best dishes to order?

We are lucky to be in the city where the Indian Accent began. They have recently shifted location to the Lodi Hotel and added to their menu. I recommend the mutton boti pancakes and duck kulchas for non-vegetarians and kathal tacos (jackfruit) and sarson saag tart (mustard leaves) for vegetarians. Finish with the Besan laddoo tart (chickpea flour) for dessert.

An all-time favourite remains Bukhara at the ITC Maurya Shereton. The Raan (leg of meat) and paneer tikka (barbeque cottage cheese) are to die for. Don’t forget to order the family naan bread if there are more than 2 people. It’s great fun!


What should the art lover know and prepare for before they set foot in Delhi?

Prepare for the traffic! All the galleries and museums are not in one neighbourhood, so plan your day well, bearing in mind the locations you wish to visit. It works best if you know someone who can help you make appointments with the galleries. Most importantly, see as much art as you can because it gives you a great overview of the works from our sub-continent.


After visiting Delhi for the art, where in India would you recommend for a post-art resort holiday, and why?

It truly depends on which part of the country you are travelling to for art. If you happen to be in North India, Udaivilas in Udaipur (Rajesthan) is lovely, as is Vanyavilas in Ranthambore, where you can go for safaris and see tigers as well.



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