Indian Academy of Fine Arts

The Indian Academy of Fine Arts Amritsar (IAFA) is one of the oldest & the most prestigious Art Institution of India promoting Art & Culture in the region. The Academy was established by Master Gurdit Singh, an eminent artist of that time with the help of other artists (Founder Members: Sh. Kedar Nath Sharma Film Director, Sh. B.S.Sewak, Mohd. Hussain Painter, Sh.S.D.Oberoi, Sh. Mallah Ram and others) in the year 1928. Who could imagine, the seed they were bowing sitting in a small room (situated at Mahna Singh Road, Amritsar) will blossom into a big tree (institution)!

History of IAFA can be divided into THREE periods:
1. EARLY period - 1928 to 1976

In early Nineteens, S.G. Thakur Singh and S. Hari Singh were working as artists to paint scenes on curtains in a Theatrical Company (Madan) in Calcutta where G.S. Sohan Singh joined them as an apprentice. It was a period when Indian cinema was in its early stage. Silent movies were being made and role of painters was imminent. The Madan Theatrical Company shifted from Calcutta to Kanpur and finally to Bombay and all these artists too moved along with.

Because of newer techniques in Indian cinema, the role of painter artists got reduced.

IAFA Founders

Master Gurdit Singh

S. G. Thakur Singh

G. S. Sohan Singh

S Hari Singh

S.G. Thakur Singh
S. Dharam Singh Engineer
Dhruv Dev Arora
Sunder Das Oberoi

Adding to it was an incidence when this group of artists was in a boat on its way to Elephanta caves (Bombay) and their boat got entrapped in a whirlpool. They all prayed for their lives to God Keeping Golden Temple in minds. They got saved and thus shifted to Amritsar, the city of Golden Temple and artists' native place.

Master Gurdit Singh invited them to join the Academy and work for the promotion of art in Amritsar while he himself shifted to Bombay on the insistence of Sh. Kedar Nath Sharma an icon film producer and director.

In the year 1932, S.G. Thakur Singh where S.G. stands for Ganda Singh, Father of S.Thakur Singh took over the charge of Academy as President. By that time he was a well recognized artist having won prestigious awards in India as well as in foreign lands.

He with other renowned artists (S. Hari Singh, G. S. Sohan Singh where G.S. stands for Gian Singh, father of S.Sohan Singh, S. Gurbachan Singh, S. Dalip Singh, S. Sobha Singh and others) continued working for the sake of Art and used to hold exhibitions of paintings at different places like Temperance Hall outside Hall Gate (Current Pink Plaza), Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum in Company Bagh and even in other cities like Simla, Calcutta etc. too.

In the meantime, leading citizens and art lovers of Amritsar joined (namely Sh. K.L.Bhatia, Sh.G.R.Sethi, Principal Teja Singh, Sheikh Dadaq Hussain, Rai Bahadur Parkash Chand Mehra, S. Dharam singh Engineer, S. Narinjan Singh of Punjabi Press, Prof. S. Bindra, Dr. Gopal Dass, S. Gurdial singh Dhillon, Sh. Padam Maheshwary, S. Maharaj Chand, S. Nihal Singh Bar at law, Sh. Dhruv dev Arora,, Sh. P.C.Bhandari and others)

Joining of S. Dharam Singh Engineer to this team of artists worked as a strong boost in giving newer shape to IAFA. S. G. Thakur Singh and S. Dharam Singh were good friends. It was during 1950 that both of them mooted the idea of having a building of Indian Academy of Fine Arts. The land was acqired from the Muncipal Committee, Amritsar on lease at Madan Mohan Malviya Road, Amritsar.

Many members in various capacities worked hard and contributed in kind or cash for the cause of IAFA; worth mentioning are: Sh. Dhruv Dev Arora (as Hon. Genral Secretary) kept the records, shuttled between Amritsar and Chandigarh many a times to get the land on lease from the Govt.. He was very instrumental in getting IAFA registered under the Society Act.

Sh. Sunder Dass Oberoi (as Hon. Genral Secretary) too was very meticulous in keeping the records. He was the founder member and the 1st Joint Secretary of IAFA in 1928. He used to work hard along with SG Thakur Singh to organize Annual Exhibitions of Art.

Prof. S. Bindra framed constitution of IAFA, started and edited official news bulletin of IAFA 'India through Art'.

Art lovers and philanthropists contributed for the construction of the building; list of some donors is given herewith:

  1. S. Niranjan Singh Punjabee Press
  2. Sh Hari Chand, DALDA Wale;
  3. Sh. Brij Lal Khanna of Khanna Silk Mills;
  4. Sh Vishwa Nath Kapoor of M/s Dvi Chand Kapoor & Sons;
  5. Smt. Partap Kaur mother of SG Thakur Singh
  6. Sh Janak Raj Nayyer M/s Indian Woolen & Textile Mills Chheharta;
  7. S. Karam Singh Prop. Sirdar Iron & Steel Mills, Bombay & Amritsar.
  8. S. Inder Singh MLC (UP) MD Singh Engineering Works (Pvt. Ltd.) Kanpur;
  9. Sh. Kishori Lal Kakkar, Coal Merchant;
  10. Sh Parkash Kapur Director, Gokul Chand Rattan Chand Woolen Mills Pvt. Ltd. Amritsar;
  11. Sh Janak Raj Nayyer of M/s India Woolen Textile Mills, Chheharta;
  12. Sh Pyare Lal Kapoor, Director Amritsar Rayon & Silk Mills Pvt. Ltd. Chheharta.
IAFA got aid from some Govt. departments too as under:
  1. Ministry of Education, Govt of India.
  2. District Development Fund, Punjab Govt.
  3. Directorate of Socal Welfare, Punjab Govt.
  4. Municipal Committee, Amritsar.
  5. Ministry of Scientific Research & Cultural Affairs, Govt of India.
  6. Department of Education Punjab Govt.

Dedicated work brought laurels to SG Thakur Singh including PADMSHRI which he received on 24th March, 1973. Till his death (2nd July, 1976), SG Thakur Singh remained PRESIDENT of IAFA and kept the temple of art busy with the art activities.

2. MIDDLE period: 1976 to 1996

After the death of SG Thakur Singh, uncertainty prevailed. Master Gurdit Singh was nominated President but because of his old age and ill health, asked S.Beant Singh (Vice President) to take over the charge of acting PRESIDENT.

S. Beant Singh along with Giani Shamsher Singh Verka (as Hon. G. Secretary), Sh G.R.Sethi, S. Mubarak Singh (Editor & Publisher of a famous bulletin-Art of Living) protected the property as well as its belongings from getting lost. They had no resources even to disburse salaries to its employees. They started generating income from the rentals of its exhibition halls. Moreover, a few shops were added which too fetched good rent.

S. Avtar Singh
S. Beant Singh
Dr. Dharambir S
Giani Shamsher Singh

Money transaction brought some accusations and bad taste for the IAFA governance which got settled by the intervention of S. Sarbjit Singh, Deputy Commissioner cum Chairman of IAFA, Sh G. R. Sethi and S. Mubarak Singh (Editor and Publisher of a famous bulletin - Art of Living). They nominated the office bearers of IAFA in 1990 with S. Avtar Singh (PRESIDENT), Sh. Sunder Dass Oberoi (Hon.G.Secretary) and S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina (Financial Secretary). Because of old age and ill health of Sh. S.D. Oberoi, S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina virtually acted as Hon. G. Secretary

S. Avtar Singh Sculptor contributed a lot by virtue of his links with high ups in Delhi in the field of Indian Art. Dr. E.K.Raj, Sh. Raza Bhatia, Dr. Gopal Karodiwal, Dr. Baldev Ghambhir, Smt. Phulan Rani, Sh. Amar Chitrakar, Sh. O.P.Verma and other artists kept the torch of art glowing during this period.

3. CURRENT period: 1996 till date

From 1996 onwards, with the help of the then Deputy Commissioner, a legitimate Governing Council was formed with S. Mohinderjit Singh as PRESIDENT and S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina as Hon. General Secretary. Team of new members was introduced. New ideas were introduced and implemented. IAFA started attaining new heights.

Along with Visual art activities, Performing Art too was given the due attention. Auditorium helped to host and organise many artistic programmes in the field of Music, Dance, drama and literature. Dr.Parminder Singh Grover and Dr. Neeta Mohindra took special interest to promote performing art too.

In 1998, S. Mohinderjit Singh resigned from the Presidentship because of his personal problem. S Avtar Singh took over the charge of acting President.

In 1999, Dr. Dharmbir Singh Jolly was nominated President and S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina Hon. General Secretary. Some difference of opinion surfaced and parallel governing council with S. Avtar Singh (President) and S. Kulwant Singh Nagi (Hon. G. Secretary) was formed. Here again the role of Deputy Commissioner come into force.

In 2007, IAFA members in its General house meeting selected the same team of President S. Avtar Singh and Hon.G.Secretary S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina and authorized them to nominate the members to the Governing Council.

To avoid disputes and controversies in future, initiatives were taken to frame Election bye laws of the Academy. Dr. Parminder Singh Grover was given the responsibility to accomplish the task along with other senior members. Various committees were formed from time to time and they submitted their drafts and suggestions.

New constitution (with new election rules) was prepared, persented and adopted by the house in 2010; under which S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina was nominated life long PATRON, S Avtar Singh PRESIDENT and S. Arvinder Singh Chamak SECRETARY. The new constitution evoked protest from a section of IAFA members was eventually withdrawan.

In the meantime, General House decided to abide by the previous (old) constitution and the house authorized Dr. Parminder Singh Grover and S. Bhupinder Singh Nanda to frame the election rules. Efforts bear fruit and the Election Bye Laws were adopted by the House of September, 2011 unanimously.

Administration of the office is being looked after effeciently.

S. Rajinder Mohan Singh
S. Shiv Dev Singh
Dr. Arvinder Singh
S. Sukhpal Singh

It is worth mentioning that S. Arvinder Singh Chamak in the capacity of Secretary Finance and Administration (Current) acting Hon, G. Secretary (2008 - 2010) and Secretary (2010 - 2011) regularized the records of office. Books were re-organised , numbered and well preserved. INVENTORY book, which includes the details of paintings lays in the stock is highly appreciable. The Present Consitution and Election Rules were complied by S. Arvinder Singh Chamak.

Election were held under New rules in November 2011 and S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina got elected as president and Dr Parminder Singh Grover as Hony Gen. Secy.

After the completion of both terms 2011 - 2014 and 2014 - 2017, New team was formed on 30th November 2017 in which S. Shivdev Singh got elected as president and Dr Arvinder Singh Chamak as Hony. Gen. Secy along with S. Sukhpal Singh as Finance Secy.

Since its inception a number of dignitaries had visited the Gallery like: PRESIDENTS OF INDIA Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Radha Krishan, Dr. Zakir Hussain, Dr. V.V. Giri, Giani Zail Singh; PRIME MINISTERS OF INDIA, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Smt. Indira Gandhi, CHIEF MINISTERS OF PUNJAB S. Pratap Singh Kairon, S. Beant Singh, Captain Amarinder Singh, S. Parkash Singh Badal and many other V.V.I.Ps graced IAFA by their kind visits. S.Kartar Singh Duggal MP

History based on documents contributed by:
  1. S. Mohinderjit Singh (son of S. Dharam Singh Engineer)
  2. S. Surinder Singh (son of G.S. Sohan Singh)
  3. S. Narinder Singh Gabarhia (nephew SG Thakur Singh)
  4. Sh Satish Oberoi (son of Sh Sunder Das Oberoi)
  5. Sh. Chander Mohan Arora (son of Sh. Dhruv Dev Arora)
Office records

and compiled on above basis by: Dr. P. S. Grover