The grand history of Delhi is apparent to anyone who has spent even a day in the city – every part of the sprawling metropolis and national capital is dotted with awe-inspiring historical monuments from centuries past. From impressive forts, tombs, parks, markets, mosques, temples and more, the list of must-see places on any tour-guide website will run to pages and pages. But ask a Delhiite what truly makes this city special, and it’ll be the everyday, unassuming nooks and crannies that will be the most dear to them. So, here is our Delhi for you – including the “tourist-traps” that we actually think live up to the hype and the many many little art spots that have made this city truly ours. Welcome to Delhi, make yourself at home.
The Old Broadway of New Delhi
Located in the heart of the city, Connaught Place is your go-to place for discovering the best of the city’s history
With the spectacular India Gate in the centre, Lutyens’ Delhi is dotted with cultural gems, including the oldest theatres, performing arts organisations and visual arts centres that have been around since pre-independence days. Lalit Kala Akademi to your left. Kamani Auditorium to your right. The National School of Drama and the Sahitya Akademi, a little way ahead. Triveni Kala Sangam on the first right turn, and Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts right next to it. To the North, we have one of the absolute anchors of Indian art, the National Gallery of Modern Art with two massive historical buildings housing more than 1700 master-works of Indian art by some of our most important modernists including the ‘first Indian modernist’ Raja Ravi Varma, Bengal school stalwarts Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose and Jamini Roy and the artist ‘to whom Indian belonged’, Amrita Sher-Gil. Walk a little ahead and find Bikaner House – one of the city’s grandest and active contemporary art venues – where exhibitions and events are always taking place.
And there’s more! Some of our most beloved galleries including Art Heritage, Art Pilgrim and Gallerie Nvya are housed in Triveni Kala Sangam, an important cultural and educational centre buzzing with students, artists and those flocking to the famous Triveni Cafe for an afternoon chai. Close by in Connaught Place is historic and modernist-focused Dhoomimal Art Gallery, and DAG, while pioneers of sculpture; contemporary art hubs, Art Indus, Blueprint12, Modern Art Gallery and Palette Art Gallery, folk art champion Gallery Ragini and a wonderful display of the Chennai-based Apparao Galleries at The Lodhi hotel – all situated within a 500 metre radius in this central Delhi neighbourhood. Have a look at who is showing what on the India Art Fair Parallel tab and create your perfect art itinerary.
The Secrets of Defence Colony
One of Delhi’s beloved residential neighbourhoods, Defence Colony is also home to some of India’s leading galleries and foundations, all located at a walking distance from each other
Once the hold-out of veterans of the Indian Armed Forces, Defence Colony was one of the many occupational colonies that sprang up around modern-day Delhi during the 1960s. Now, a major art hub, Defence Colony or Def Col as it’s lovingly called, is one of our favourite places to spend our weekends, with its string of iconic galleries right across the street from the bustling lanes of Lajpat Nagar Market.
Vadehra Art Gallery, which has brought and nurtured some of the biggest names in South Asian art to Delhi since 1987, has two spaces here, one each for its modern and contemporary exhibitions. Nearby, Akar Prakar’s New Delhi outpost houses one of the most exquisite collections of works from the masters of Indian art, and specially the Bengal school artists. Hidden in the lanes of Def Col is the Shrine Empire Gallery with its unique collection of the best and brightest contemporary artists not just from India, but across South Asia.
Also make sure to stop by Treasure Art Gallery and attend one of Serendipity Arts Foundation’s pop-up and artist-led events at their space in the neighbourhood. No visit to Defence Colony, however, is complete without a stroll through the Defence Colony Market, where cutlets from Kent’s and a slice of chocolate truffle cake from the iconic Defence Bakery are a must!
Lado Sarai, The Urban Art Village
With the iconic Qutub Minar as its backdrop, the Lado Sarai Art District is a hub for emerging artists, designers and creatives
Floating between the old-world charm of Delhi and the new-age charisma of Gurgaon, Lado Sarai is Delhi’s response to the idea of an urban village, housing some of the best hangout spots that are removed from the city’s hustle and bustle. Enjoy walking around its lanes and bylanes, spotted with countless small boutiques, design ventures, architecture firms and of course some of our favourite galleries nurturing up-and-coming talent – including the cutting-edge Gallery Latitude28, Exhibit320, Foundation of Indian Contemporary Art and Art District XIII, photographers paradise, Wonderwall and rising art space Gallery Art Positive.
In between galleries, look towards the skyline for picture-postcard views of the mighty Qutub Minar that frames the skyline almost like in a postcard. Any history buff must spend a few hours at the impressive Qutub complex, housing ruins and monuments dating from the Sultanate era in the 12th century, and which challenges the Acropolis in its majesty and beauty (top tip: don’t miss the hidden Jamali Kamali tomb in the complex for a taste of queer history). Afterwards, walk around Mehrauli for a taste of luxury, with its offering of fashion boutiques, restaurants and art spaces including the folk art-led Ojas Art at 1AQ, PHOTOINK, Art Centrix Space, and GALLERYSKE in Vasant Kunj and end your day at the ultra-contemporary gallery, Nature Morte at Dhan Mill.
A short drive away, don’t miss out on a visit to the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art’s Saket space for its beautifully curated shows of the best Indian art, and the spaces defining what’s next in art – and check out Khoj Studios, both in the locality.
Art Outposts of Okhla and NOIDA
Locating in close vicinity to the fair venue, the expanding modern city gets its alt-art space in the industrial hub of Okhla and NOIDA
Ask any member of the India Art Fair team for their favourite Delhi localities and Okhla will probably be on the top of their list. With the NSIC Exhibition Grounds being home to the fair for the longest time, Okhla holds a special place in our hearts.
The modern-day neighbourhood of Okhla has largely developed around the ancient Okhla barrage on the banks of the Yamuna River. An industrial strong-hold, it is not just the industrial warehouses or the Tughlaqabad Fort, but rather the individual contemporary galleries, artist studios and the architectural marvel that is the Jamia Millia Islamia that makes this locality an important stronghold in the art-scene of Delhi. The art spaces here give voice to the latest in the contemporary visual arts, be it Gallery Espace and Studio Art’s experimental bent or Pulp Society’s celebration of all things print-making. Fun fact: you can make your silk screen prints at Pulp Society’s workshop space during their open hours! When in Okhla, get your fill of street food in the thronging lanes of Jamia Nagar.
Situated between Okhla and the industrial hub NOIDA is the Okhla Bird Sanctuary, perfect for a robust morning walk surrounded by the beauty of the Yamuna river. Drive across the river towards NOIDA afterwards, not just a major centre for developing industries and corporate conglomerates, but also many arts and cultural organisations. Of these, most significant is perhaps the NOIDA Film City, home to large-scale production houses, entertainment giants and news TV channels thriving here, with their close proximity to the national public broadcaster Doordarshan headquarters in central New Delhi. Of course, there are special treats here for us visual art lovers too, with impeccable art the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art’s permanent collection and Anant Art Gallery’s gallery space both in the area.
Gurgaon, the Millennium City
An ever-growing metropolis, Gurugram finds itself endowed with new arts and cultural spaces aimed to involve a new generation of artists, creatives and collectors
The millennium city, hub of glistening high-rises and India’s corporate capital, Gurgaon, or Gurugram as it is officially known, is the ever-growing base of Delhi’s millennials. Not just the perks of modern life, Gurgaon also offers a wealth of contemporary art from across the country. From Museo Camera, the first museum in India dedicated to photography to budding galleries, Gallery Dotwalk are must visit spots between eating and shopping in Cyber City.
Last but not least, if in New Delhi during India Art Fair week, stop by, say hello, and immerse yourself in the beating cultural heart of the country.