Guggenheim Presents First Museum Exhibition of Indian Modern Painter V. S. Gaitonde — October 24, 2014–February 11, 2015


V. S. Gaitonde

Painting No. 1, 1962

Oil on canvas, 50 x 50 inches (127 x 127 cm)

Private collection, New York. Photo: Sotheby’s, courtesy Sotheby’s, New York

Guggenheim Presents First Museum Exhibition of Indian Modern Painter Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde

Exhibition: V. S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
Location: Annex Level 4, Thannhauser 4, and Monitor 4 Galleries
Dates: October 24, 2014–February 11, 2015
Media Preview: Thursday, October 23, 2014, 10 am-12 pm

(New York, NY – June 4, 2014) – The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
presents the first museum exhibition dedicated to the work of celebrated
Indian modern painter Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde (1924–2001) with V. S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life
from October 24, 2014, to February 11, 2015. The retrospective will
comprise forty-five major paintings and works on paper drawn from thirty
leading public institutions and private collections across Asia,
Europe, and the United States, forming the most comprehensive overview
of Gaitonde’s work to date. As current scholarship revisits traditions
of mid-20th-century modern art outside of the Euro-American paradigm,
Gaitonde’s work presents an unparalleled opportunity to explore the
context of Indian modern art as it played out in the metropolitan
centers of Bombay (now Mumbai) and New Delhi from the late 1940s through
the end of the 20th century. Featuring many works that have never been
seen by the public, the exhibition will reveal Gaitonde’s extraordinary
use of color, line, form, and texture, as well as symbolic elements and
calligraphy, in works that seem to glow with an inner light.

The exhibition is organized by Sandhini Poddar, Adjunct Curator,
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, with Amara Antilla, Curatorial Assistant,
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. It is presented in conjunction with  the
Guggenheim’s Asian Art Initiative, committed to the integration of
modern and contemporary Asian art into museum programming and collection
activities as part of  the institutional global mission.

This exhibition is supported in part by Christie’s and the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation.

The Leadership Committee for V. S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life
is gratefully acknowledged for its support, with special thanks to Shiv
and Kiran Nadar, as well as Aicon Gallery, Marguerite Charugundla and
Kent Srikanth Charugundla, Mr. and Mrs. Rajiv J. Chaudhri, Pheroza
Jamshyd Godrej, Gujral Foundation, Amrita Jhaveri and Pilar Ordovas,
Mukeeta and Pramit Jhaveri, Sangita and Sajjan Jindal, Shanthi Kandiah
and Brahmal Vasudevan, Peter Louis and Chandru Ramchandani, Ashwath
Mehra, Sanjay and Anjna Motwani, Smita and Ramesh Prabhakar, Pundole Art
Gallery, Poonam Bhagat Shroff, Aditi and Shivinder Singh, Talwar
Gallery, Vadehra Art Gallery, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky, and
those who wish to remain anonymous.

Born in Nagpur, India in 1924, Gaitonde was briefly affiliated with
avant-garde collectives such as the Progressive Artists’ Group and the
Bombay Group in the early ’50s. Nonetheless, Gaitonde remained
independent throughout most of his career, unrelated to any of the
modern groups, movements, styles, or academies that developed after 1947
in post-Independence India. He was an artist of singular stature, known
to fellow artists and intellectuals, as well as to later generations of
students and collectors, as a man of uncompromising artistic integrity
of spirit and purpose. A stringent attachment to the codes of painting
and the ethics of being a painter distinguished his aesthetic worldview.

The exhibition will draw an arc from Gaitonde’s early, figurative,
mixed-medium works and watercolors inspired by Paul Klee (1879–1940),
through his major bodies of paintings from the 1960s and ’70s during
which time he developed his signature oil works on canvas, to his late
works from the 1980s and ’90s. Gaitonde began participating in solo and
group exhibitions across India and abroad in the mid-1950s. Departing
from Klee’s agile lines, lyrical colors, and fantastical symbolist
imagery, the artist began working in the late 1950s in a
nonrepresentational mode—or, as he preferred to call it, a nonobjective
style. This turn towards abstraction coincides with Gaitonde’s lifelong
interest in Zen Buddhism, and is in accordance with the philosophy first
espoused by Vasily Kandinsky (1866–1944), as is embodied by the
Guggenheim Museum’s origins as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting.
Achieving silence was constitutive in Gaitonde’s creative process.
During an interview in 1991, he equated the circle—which appears in
several of his canvases—with silence, speech with the splitting of the
circle in half, and Zen with a dot: “Everything starts from silence. The
silence of the brush. The silence of the canvas. The silence of the
painting knife. The painter starts by absorbing all these silences. You
are not partial in the sense that no one part of you is working there.
Your entire being is. Your entire being is working together with the
brush, the painting knife, the canvas to absorb that silence and

Gaitonde employed palette knives and paint rollers and often used
torn pieces of newspaper and magazines to create abstract forms through a
“lift-off” technique. The resulting paintings have a sense of
weightlessness, yet their texture assures physicality and presence. His
work spans the traditions of nonobjective painting and Zen Buddhism as
well as Indian miniatures and East Asian hanging scrolls and ink
paintings. This transnational set of references and influences provides
an art historical context for Gaitonde’s work that has not yet been
fully developed before this retrospective and its accompanying
catalogue. When looking at Gaitonde’s oeuvre within the wider related
context of international postwar art, one can draw parallels to artists
working within the contemporary School of Paris, and movements such as
Art Informel, Tachisme, and Abstract Expressionism, and yet continue to
define his output within the particular ethos of living and working in
India, as he did throughout his lifetime. The artistic careers of
Nicolas de Staël (1914–1955), Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974), Simon Hantaï
(1922–2008), Ad Reinhardt (1913–1967), Mark Rothko (1903–1970), and Anne
Ryan (1889–1954) provide some formal resonances to Gaitonde’s work.

V. S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life will
reveal Gaitonde as a seminal colorist whose career remains unequaled in
the history of South Asian modern art. As Indian critic Dnyaneshwar
Nadkarni has stated, Gaitonde’s “independent-mindedness was accompanied
by a firm belief in his identity as a painter.” The artist often spent
months conceiving a new work but allowed for accident and play to
ultimately inform the making of his art. Never prolific, Gaitonde is
known to have made only five or six paintings a year, given his lengthy
process of conceptualization. An emphasis on process, a masterful
handling of color, structure, texture, and light, and an intuitive
understanding of how these forces alter perception, are all testaments
to Gaitonde’s unwavering commitment to his craft.

After the presentation at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, V. S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life will travel to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice from October 3, 2015–January 10, 2016.

Exhibition Catalogue

V. S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life
will be accompanied by an exhibition catalogue authored by Sandhini
Poddar that will serve as the first comprehensive art historical and
biographic record on the artist. The catalogue is co-published by
Prestel/DelMonico Books and will be available for $55 at

Education and Public Programs

Film by Sunil Kaldate

Friday, October 24, 5:30 pm

A rare film screening of V. S. Gaitonde (1995, 27 min.) followed by an in-gallery discussion between the filmmaker and exhibition curator Sandhini Poddar.

$8, $6 members, free students

Curator’s Eye Tours

Fridays, 12 pm

October 31: Sandhini Poddar

January 16: Amara Antilla

Free with museum admission

Eye to Eye: Gaitonde and Abstraction

Monday, November 3, 6:30 pm

this program, scholar Iftikhar Dadi, artist Zarina, and exhibition
curator Sandhini Poddar discuss international modernism, abstraction,
and the work of V. S. Gaitonde, within the exhibition galleries.

$12, $8 members, $5 students

About V.S. Gaitonde

Gaitonde was born in 1924 in
Nagpur, Maharashtra. He graduated from the Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy
School of Art in Bombay in 1948 and became a fellow there from 1948 to
1950. In 1957, Gaitonde won the Fleischmann Prize at the First Young Asian Artists Exhibition
in Tokyo organized by the Japan Cultural Forum. The artist was awarded
the JDR 3rd Fund in 1964, which allowed him to spend a year in New York.
In 1971 he received the highly prestigious Padma Shri award from the
Government of India, and moved to New Delhi the same year. In September
1984, Gaitonde was injured in a severe auto accident, which temporarily
left him unable to make large canvases. Consequently, he turned to
smaller format works on paper from 1985 to 1987. The artist was awarded
the Kalidas Samman award by the state government of Madhya Pradesh for
the year 1988–1989, and resumed work on his canvases in 1989. He
continued to paint until 1998 and died in Gurgaon, Haryana in 2001.

Gaitonde’s works are included in numerous public collections,
including the Rupankar Museum of Fine Art, Bhopal, India; Glenbarra Art
Museum, Himeji, Japan; Humboldt Arts Council at the Morris Graves Museum
of Art, Eureka, California; Philadelphia Museum of Art; University Art
Gallery, University of Pittsburgh; Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation at
the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of
Wales Museum), Mumbai; Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy School of Art (now Sir
Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy Institute of Applied Arts), Mumbai; Tata Institute
of Fundamental Research, Mumbai; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi;
Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi; National Gallery of Modern Art, New
Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and State
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.

About the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is dedicated to promoting
the understanding and appreciation of art, primarily of the modern and
contemporary periods, through exhibitions, education programs, research
initiatives, and publications. The Guggenheim network that began in the
1970s when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, was joined by the
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, has since expanded to include the
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, which opened in 1997, and the Guggenheim Abu
Dhabi, currently in development. Looking to the future, the Guggenheim
Foundation continues to forge international collaborations that take
contemporary art, architecture, and design beyond the walls of the
museum, including with the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, and
with The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. More
information about the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation can be found at

Visitor Information

Admission: Adults $22,
students/seniors (65+) $18, members and children under 12 free. The
Guggenheim’s new, free app, available with admission or by download to
personal devices, offers an enhanced visitor experience. The app
features content on special exhibitions as well as access to more than
1,400 works in the Guggenheim’s permanent collection and information
about the museum’s landmark building. A verbal imaging guide for the
collection is available for visitors who are blind or have low vision.
The Guggenheim app is sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Museum Hours: Sun–Wed, 10 am–5:45 pm; Fri, 10 am–5:45 pm; Sat, 10
am–7:45 pm; closed Thurs. On Saturdays, beginning at 5:45 pm, the museum
hosts Pay What You Wish. For general information, call 212 423 3500 or visit the museum online at: and