Triangulating Dialogues: Sudaram Tagore Gallery

Jul 09, 2022 | Melissa Peh

Amidst the prevailing narrative in New York at the time – that Western men were making the most collectible art – Sundaram Tagore rose to counter this limiting perspective when he first opened the gallery in 2000 in New York City. The Calcutta-born Oxford-educated art historian, gallerist, and an award-winning filmmaker wanted to demonstrate that some of the best and most meaningful art were those created by artists deeply engaged in cross-cultural explorations. With this mission in mind, Sundaram Tagore assembled a global roster of artists who crossed cultural and national boundaries, synthesizing Western visual language with forms, techniques, and philosophies from Asia, the Subcontinent, and the Middle East. He then showed these works alongside important work by overlooked women artists from the New York School who came of age in the 1950s.

Perhaps inspired by his own transnational identity, after all having come from the East but living in the West, Sundaram held on to the intention of creating a new cultural space that would become home to a global community of artists. His global and inclusive outlook eventually prompted him to open locations in Beverly Hills in 2007, Hong Kong in 2008, and in Singapore in 2012. Today, more than 20 years since the gallery’s founding, Sundaram remains steadfastly committed to building a cross-cultural art community.

“For each exhibition, our goal is to spark a dialogue, to use art as a vehicle to bring people together. It was the founding principal of our mission when we first opened and we have never veered from that idea since.” —Sundaram Tagore (Director)

In 2015, the gallery began a program of partnering with museums and cultural organizations to mount exhibitions that further their mission of intercultural exchanges. These projects include Frontiers Reimagined at the 2015 Venice Biennale, the photography exhibition The World We Live in at the Ayala Museum in Manila, Sebastiao Salgado: The World Through His Eyes at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, and Jane Lee: Red States at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. In addition to an extensive exhibition programme, the gallery is renowned for its support of multicultural and multidisciplinary events – including poetry readings, book launches, music performances, and film screenings – that further its mission of East-West exchange. Sundaram continues to champion artists, particularly women and those from underrepresented cultures, whose work exemplifies the interconnectedness of humanity across the globe.

“Today, as the world we occupy is increasingly faced with shared risks in public health, ecology, politics and economics—which is to say in more or less all spheres of existence—art and artists who are amenable to taking risks and solving self-imposed problems are poised to offer hope. I believe that over time, exhibitions can act as a catalyst for change—ushering in the gradual transformation of our society. In the wake of the pandemic which has isolated so many people, art and the artistic community are needed now to bind our disparate and discontented world together.” - Sundaram Tagore (Director)

Sundaram Tagore Gallery also has a robust photography programme that includes some of the world’s most noted photographers, and artists who produce museum-calibre paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations with a strong emphasis on materiality. The gallery specialises in works which are aesthetically and intellectually rigorous, whilst allowing their emphasis on a shared humanism to forward art by taking a page out of the history books in anear organic way.

“At this moment in time, people have become more thoughtful and introspective. They want to experience a visceral connection with art that has longevity and lasting power, something that has always been our mandate.” - Sundaram Tagore (Director)

Particularly now that assumptions surrounding cultural ownership and geographical differences are increasingly being challenged, the gallery’s focus on fostering intercultural and international dialogues affords a crucial space for academics and art practitioners alike to further consider the nature of a common human identity beyond perceived differences. Should the premise of the gallery’s programming remain on the inter-mingling of cultures as it undoubtedly has over the years, the unifying and humanist approach at Sundaram Tagore Gallery may well incubate a space for much needed global art histories to emerge and thrive.

Now, Sundaram Tagore Gallery has expanded its contribution to the cross-cultural mission of the arts scene since its founding at the turn of the century and has since erected exhibition spaces in three countries – Singapore’s Gillman Barracks, New York gallery on West 26th Street in Chelsea, and London’s Cromwell Place arts hub.