Exhibition- ‘Dawn upon Delhi: Rise of a Capital’ Inaugurated

for Ministry of Culture | Date - 13-02-2012

Secretary, Union Ministry of Culture, Shri Jawhar Sircar today inaugurated an exhibition- ‘Dawn Upon Delhi: Rise of a Capital’ which portrays an illustrated journey through the rich history of Delhi as the Capital of India. The exhibition is being presented by National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi in collaboration with the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts. Mr. Ebrahim Alkazi, Chairman, Alkazi Foundation for the Arts also graced the occasion.

The exhibition focuses on Delhi of the late 19th and mid-20th century, seeking to arouse a capital, one that had been the epicenter of political and cultural life for many centuries, from the time of Qutub-ud-din Aibak and Shah Jahan, to the very present; showcased through richly detailed engravings, maps, plans, vintage and modern photographs, from the Alkazi Collection, as well as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Central Public Works Department archives (CPWD), and the archives of D.N. Chaudhuri and Habib Rahman (currently with Ram Rahman). Delhi historically remained important for any ruler to capture, a strategic site, to rule over not only the northern region but the larger empire.

And, as much of the political life seeks nourishment, we see an emerging centre of the arts in the city, even in areas such as Shahjahanabad, with its meandering galis and animated vendors. The very same streets would then become part of the coronations of Delhi during the Imperial Coronations of 1877, 1903 and 1911. The Delhi Coronation Durbars were at once self-appraising representations of Imperial power. In contrast to the close knit architecture of Old Delhi, the durbar city easily lent itself to panoramic photography. This has been represented in the exhibition through photographers such as Vernon and Co., Johnston and Hoffmann, Bourne and Shepherd among artists such as Mortimer Menpes, a student of the famous European Artist, James McNeil Whistler. On the other hand, images from the ASI archives represent a keen reportage of the historical sites for purposes of conservation and restoration.

A greatly transformed urban landscape emerged in photographs of the 1940s and 50s that focused on geographical zones of authority in New Delhi, such as the Parliament and Rashtrapati Bhavan which became symbols of a rising nation-state, whose original plans by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker are seen for the first time, together with photographs taken by an anonymous state photographer of the CPWD. However, with the rise of Delhi as the Capital of Modern India, we see the compelling growth in its infrastructure, opening up to its dwellers in new ways with the making of areas such as Connaught Place, some original plans of Robert Tor Russel which are featured in the exhibition. Modern day practitioners featured in the exhibition such as D.N. Chaudhuri, a living press photographer from the 50s and 60s, captured a pictorial sense of the city, and carefully documented Delhi’s rise to current day urbanism. We also see a few works of renowned architect, Habib Rahman, shot in the immediate aftermath of the making of Lutyens and Bakers New Delhi. His photographs engage in complex discourses - social, political and cultural - to be seen as a seamless thread that ties land to people, people to place and the latter to an artistic, almost altruistic anomaly created through the lens.

“Every moment in the birth of a Capital is pregnant with surprises, if unrecorded may be lost to oblivion; many such moments have been captured by enthusiastic shutter bugs thus leaving behind a set of images which individually and collectively remain a rare pictorial record for posterity.. The exhibition brings to the public these rare images drawn from various collections and thus can be viewed in a comprehensive manner. To complement the photographs and to give a real sense to the viewer of how the city was planned the exhibition features some of the original drawings and maps from the archives of the Central Public Works Department” says Prof. Rajeev Lochan, Director, National Gallery of Modern Art.



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