KASAULI ART CENTRE
In an era when India was forming her identity, and the arts community was still trying to grapple with their language, and a modernism that was truly Indian, Vivan Sundaram started the Kasauli Art Centre in 1976. Nested in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, it was a consolidated one stop ‘adda’, which collated the many smaller ‘addas’ happening across India, creating an open platform for exchange and development of ideas. In many ways, Kasauli was the first art residency program in India.
The primary aim for the centre was to actualise a creative and intellectual hub that organised artist camps, residency programs, workshops, and seminars. One of its hallmark contributions was its nurturing of cross-pollination between the arts, where people working in visual art, cinema, music, literature, theatre, architecture, cultural studies, social sciences, and so on, could pursue an interdisciplinary approach. A testament to this was the publication Journal of Arts and Ideas.
This centre hosted almost all artists from the 70s and 80s, who now line auction catalogue and modern Indian art history books. Even today, the photographic archive of this centre forms the primary bank of Indian Modern Art History. Being artist led, the centre offered a refuge from the regressive and divisive politics of the day, and a platform for feminism and equal opportunity to thrive.
The change of the landscape of the Indian Art world in the 90s, with the entry of auction houses, setting up of bigger galleries, and the Indian Art market led to epicenter shifting to Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi; waning the need for the Kasauli Art Centre.