From finance to fine art: Deepak Talwar ’89 finds his passion representing modern and contemporary Indian artists and bringing the joy of art to others.Three drawings by abstract artist Nasreen Mohamedi changed Deepak Talwar’s (’89) trajectory.
Mohamedi’s minimalist creations, their fine lines forming grids and geometric shapes that create tension and depth on paper, led Talwar, a young banker at the time, to consider a new path.
“I’m standing there looking at these drawings, just a few lines on a piece of paper, and I get goosebumps. It was like magic,” he recalls. “I couldn’t explain to myself why I was experiencing this.”
Talwar encountered Mohamedi’s drawings more than two decades ago. Today, he creates that magic for others as the founder of art galleries in New York and New Delhi.
Without overthinking the move, Talwar transitioned to the New York art world as gallerist in 1996 following five years in the banking industry.
“My interest in art kept increasing as I was becoming disenchanted with banking and the corporate culture,” he says. “I knew that if I stayed in banking, it would be harder to leave because the opportunity cost would become greater for switching to something about which I was passionate, but knew little.”
Over a period of a few days he made the decision, not knowing where he would be six months later, but certain that he loved art and wanted to be closer to it.
Prior to his epiphany, Talwar’s interests and professional aspirations heavily focused on the hard sciences and economics. He came to Davidson from Delhi and expected to major in physics, but an economics 101 course taught by Professor Emeritus Charlie Ratliff convinced him otherwise.
“I thought, ‘This is it,’” he says. “It made sense, it was directly applicable and it just synched with me.”
Talwar then earned a master’s degree in international economics and finance, wanting more than anything else to be a banker.
The byproduct of his chosen vocation: His career took him to New York City, not only a financial capital but also art capital of the world, where he came to see the arts in a new light.
“I loved that art was an uncompromising enterprise,” he explains. “It’s a pursuit solely based on belief and vision, rather than a path mapped out by others. I wanted to feel that full experience in my work.”
Talwar noted a dearth of galleries showing modern and contemporary Indian artists outside of India and realized he had found his niche.
On his next trip to India, he began cultivating friendships and professional relationships within the art community; he has never looked back.
His process for representing new artists typically starts with the artwork itself.
“There is no formula to it [identifying artwork],” he says. “I’m constantly looking at art, and if it hooks me, then I do my research to see if there is enough substance that attracts me to the artist before meeting with them.”
Once Talwar meets the artist, his focus shifts from what they’ve done to what they will do.
“It’s a journey you’re taking together. It’s about how well you get along and how much you believe in their work,” he says.
Although Talwar primarily represents artists from the Indian subcontinent and its diaspora, he intentionally doesn’t show their art as Indian.
“You’re quarantining the art if you put that label on it,” he explains. “You’re affected by everything that happens in the world, not just what’s immediately around you. I’m an Indian at heart, I’m an American as well, and a New Yorker as well. I don’t have to choose one.”
He opened his second gallery in New Delhi in 2007 to give the artists’ work a proper showing in India.
“Bringing them to India provides them with duality,” he says. “Because the art scene is in the early stages of development, there is so much you can do in India, and it is so impactful.”
As one of few galleries, Talwar and his artists are able to shape the cultural landscape in India where, because of a lack of museums, Talwar says it is the job of galleries to educate people about art.
“There is desire for people to learn, and the resources to spend on art, so it is just a matter of showing them why art is important,” he says.
History & Modernity Converge
Talwar also represents artists who have intersected with India. In March, he collaborated with the college to bring an exhibition featuring two of his artists to Davidson’s Van Every Gallery.
The artists, Allan deSouza and Alia Syed, are both of Indian descent but were raised and have lived outside of the country.
“I like that these artists are responding to changes in cultural history and migration, but they are also poetic, there is humor as well,” Talwar explains. “They are exploring changes in society today with a visual experience that is also beautiful.”
The exhibition brought Talwar back to Davidson’s campus—the first place he visited in America as a young man.
“I couldn’t have been in a more different environment, and it was a hard first couple of months, but as time passed I was able to become more open,” he recalls. “As time goes on, you realize how special the school is and what it did for you in laying a foundation of value and character. You can’t see it or isolate it, but you know that without it, things would be very different.”
Building on that foundation has brought Talwar full circle in more ways than one. For the past 15 years he has represented the estate of Nasreen Mohamedi, his original source of inspiration. The deceased artist’s drawings comprise one of two inaugural exhibitions at the MET Breuer, an offshoot of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to modern and contemporary works.
Talwar explained that although Mohamedi is considered a modern artist, some of her works are more contemporary than what’s being done today.
“The history of modernism has been written, but this artist puts a dent in that perspective because she shows that there were other artists with a unique language,” he says. “To see other people experience that is great, because there is so much around us that we miss.”