IAFA Founders
1. Master Gurdit Singh
2. S. G. Thakur Singh
3. G. S. Sohan Singh
4. S Hari Singh

Indian Academy of Fine Arts: History

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.

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.

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

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.

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 .

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 Singh Jolly Giani Shamsher Singh Verka

S.Sarbjit Singh along with S. Mubarak Singh, 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 1999, Dr. Dharmbir Singh Jolly was nominated President and S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina Hon. General Secretary. Proper elections of the Governing Council were conducted by the District Administrations for the first time in the history of IAFA in 2002 when S. Avtar Singh Sculptor got elected as PRESIDENT and S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina as Hon. General Secretary

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. Finally, 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 on September, 2011 unanimously.

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

Elections were held under the new rules in November 2017 and S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina got elected as Chairman, S Shiv Dev Singh as President and Dr. Arvinder Singh Chamak as Hon. General Secretary.

The Current period basically belongs to S. Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina who along with his dedicated team of workers are leaving no stone unturned to add glory to IAFA.

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

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