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Gallerist Roshini Vadehra On Shaping India’s Contemporary Art Scene

khushboo sharmakhushboo sharma  |  Aug 12, 2021
Gallerist Roshini Vadehra On Shaping India’s Contemporary Art Scene

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As someone hailing from a family of art connoisseurs and gallerists, Roshni Vadehra, Director of Vadehra Art Gallery, grew up surrounded by iconic artworks and artists. So it was natural that Roshni found her calling in art. After graduating from Boston University in 2004, she took over her father’s prestigious art gallery with an aim to take it to new heights. 

At the time, the art world was redirecting its creative vision and contemporary artists were finally getting the limelight they deserve. Roshni saw this as an excellent opportunity to support the local art ecosystem and start something of her own. Within a year, she had opened a brand new gallery in Okhla, Delhi.  Since then, this gallery has been a dedicated space allocated to contemporary Indian artists. Almost two decades later, Roshni is representing some of the biggest names in contemporary art. Her impressive clientele includes the likes of Atul Dodiya, Shilpa Gupta, Anju Dodiya, Nalini Malani, and Jayashree Chakravarthy.

The secret to Roshni’s success? A people-first approach that has helped her maintain a warm relationship with each one of her clients. “Nothing pays off like human relationships,” says the gallerist. Of course, there is more to her success—an ability to keep up with the frequently-changing art world and quickly adapting being one of them. The pandemic has ushered in a new reality, a new way of doing things. Roshni had to navigate a lot in the past year-and-a-half. She found the way ahead in artistic collaborations. 

Roshini Vadehra

Early on in the lockdown, her gallery, along with 11 others from India and Dubai, came together to create a virtual platform called In Touch. Through it, they promoted contemporary artists and exhibitions. Later in 2020, Vadehra Art Gallery collaborated with Delhi’s Nature Morte gallery to put together an online show, The Future is Not Fixed. Immersive and jolting, the exhibition resonated with everyone trying to make sense of the challenging times. 

As a power player in India’s art scene, Roshni fits our #POPxoWomenWhoWin series neatly. In a recent chat with POPxo, Roshni talked about her love for contemporary Indian art, her favourite artists, and the journey so far. Excerpts below: 

How do you begin your day?  

I begin each day with a run and a workout. I find that hour to be most therapeutic and it immediately clears my head and energises me for the rest of the day.

What does a typical workday look like for you? 

The best part of my job is that every day is different. There are artist studio visits, collector meetings, art fair weeks, biennale visits, exhibition installation days. There are some days where one doesn’t have a choice and has to follow a routine if something is already planned, but other days can be planned depending on one’s mood and interest at that time. Couldn’t be more grateful for how dynamic our art world is.

Roshini Vadehra

How and when did you realise you wanted to pursue art as a  career? 

I only decided to pursue my career as a gallerist when I came back from college (Boston University). I was unsure of working in a ‘family business’, but when I joined the gallery in 2004, it was a very exciting time in the art world – the market was booming. I immediately got immersed in the gallery, and was very fortunate that my father gave me the freedom to set up a second space for contemporary art.

Tell us about the first-ever art show you worked on.

There were a few exhibitions in my first few months that stayed with me. One was an exhibition of Rabindranath Tagore, Amrita Shergil and Jamini Roy. Another was a solo exhibition of Anju Dodiya, and the third was a survey exhibition of contemporary Indian art titled ‘We are like this only’ at Lalit Kala Akademi. While the Tagore, Shergil and Jamini Roy exhibition was unreal in terms of the content with each work being a museum piece, Anju’s show was wonderful to work on, learning the meticulous way in which she planned the show. On the other hand, the group exhibition of contemporary art was an incredible learning experience as I did some amazing studio visits all over the country to put together the exhibition.

What was a turning point in your career? 

When I set up a separate contemporary space of the gallery. We also set up our art foundation – Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, around the same time. I really felt like I was coming on my own with independent projects of my own (never without help and support of course), but it gave me the courage to try different things early in my career.

Roshni Vadehra

What is a mantra that you swear by in your professional and personal life? 

 Work harder than you think you did yesterday.

What key skills or qualities do you think helped you succeed? 

I learnt from my father early on in my career that nothing pays off like human relationships – with our colleagues, our artists, our collectors and anyone else who you may come across in your professional life. Our success is very clearly driven by our solid relationships with all our stakeholders, and one can’t take that for granted even for a day.  

What would you consider to be your biggest professional accomplishment so far? 

Hard to say! But I think what gives me the most joy is the foundation that we set up 12 years ago, and to see the work that we are able to do in supporting the Indian art ecosystem. At the gallery, every day is a combination of successes and struggles and that is what makes the journey fun and interesting.

Roshni Vadehra

Any advice for budding gallerists who want to follow in your footsteps? 

Always keep learning. In our field of art, you can never know too much. Spend time with gallerists, artists, curators and collectors and really attempt to understand the vastness of this world.

How do you unwind after a long day?

 I have two boys, and I love spending time with them at the end of the day – we play board games and catch up on our respective days. Of course, nothing beats a glass of wine with close friends over the weekend as well!

And finally, who are your three favourite artists?

That’s a very tough question, but I will try and answer it. There are artists in India who I have learnt immensely from over the course of the last 17 years – Arpita Singh, Atul and Anju Dodiya and Shilpa Gupta. They continue to guide me as I work towards the gallery’s success in all that we do. Then there are artists like Louise Bourgeois, Wolfgang Tillmans, Ai Weiwei who I greatly admire internationally.

Featured Image Courtesy: Roshni Vadehra