Words by Maya Asha McDonald
With an ongoing virtual exhibition with the Gorilla Girls and penchant for social justice, controversial character Amar Singh hasn’t let the trials of 2020 slow him down. From representing Howard Tangye to his family’s proud lineage of female activists, Singh is a man whose manner and mission we won’t soon forget.
If you’re familiar with the upper echelons of the London art scene, then chances are you’ve heard of the Indian royal, turned gallery activist, Amar Singh. With features previously devoted to this luminary in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, FAD Magazine and a spot on the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2019, it’s safe to say that Singh is a known commodity.
A member of the erstwhile Kapurthala Royal Family, Singh worked alongside India’s first openly gay prince, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, to legalise homosexuality in India. He’s also known as a fierce advocate for women’s rights — following in the footsteps of his grandmother, Veena Singh, who campaigned for women’s education alongside the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 –1964).
‘Any success I have is not about me,’ remarks the refreshingly candid Singh. ‘It’s about championing women and LGBTQ+ rights.’ While many galleries purport to have a social agenda, Singh’s eponymously named gallery is almost entirely dedicated to addressing social issues, with fine art merely being a dynamic vehicle. As evidence, Singh currently works with a staggering roster of over 800 female artists through his gallery and emerging artist initiatives; and has exhibited feminist icons like Helen Frankenthaler, the Gorilla Girls, and Renee Cox.
Arguably the most prominent member of the LGBTQ+ community represented by Singh is Renaissance man Howard Tangye. Beloved by the smart set, Tangye has been a consistent influence in fashion from his former perch at Central Saint Martins, where he was the head of Womenswear Design. In that capacity, Tangye helped shape the design sensibilities of industry greats like John Galliano, Zac Posen and Stella McCartney — amongst a myriad of others.
With his first exhibition having opened to much fanfare in 2014, Tangye’s oeuvre — evocative of German Expressionist Egon Schiele (1890 – 1918) — has captured the attention of established collectors and industry leaders alike. With the support of Singh and curator Abraham Thomas of the Victoria and Albert Museum, his works have been enshrined in the permanent collections of London’s most distinguished institutions like Tate Modern, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and Central St. Martin’s Museum.
Tangye’s skeleton-like figurative compositions, often executed in watercolours, inks and graphite, are imbued with a frank eroticism simultaneously juxtaposed against a tender haze. ‘Howard is a remarkable human being who has dedicated his life to art,’ shares Singh, as we admire a work by Tangye currently in Singh’s expansive personal collection. ‘For me, his pieces are romantic and full of feeling. I’m genuinely honoured to work with him.’
While Tangye’s creations are not currently on view at Amar Singh Gallery, Singh has exclusively shared with Unpolished a beguiling selection of the artist’s available works. To experience Singh’s curatorial prowess, we suggest perusing his ongoing virtual exhibitions, Missing In Action: Gorilla Girls and Section 377 — which features a haunting piano piece composed by accomplished London-based musician Charles D. Morris.
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Image I: Portrait of Amar Singh. Courtesy of Amar Singh Gallery.
Image II: Howard Tangye, Francesca (Red Dress), 2014-15. Courtesy of Amar Singh Gallery, shared exclusively with Unpolished.
Image III: Howard Tangye, In The Garden There Was A Lemon Tree, 2018. Courtesy of Howard Tangye.
Image IV: Howard Tangye, Ben W. (Seated – Sideways in Chair), 2016-17. Courtesy of Amar Singh Gallery, shared exclusively with Unpolished.
Image V: Howard Tangye, Freya (seated backwards), 2017. Courtesy of Howard Tangye.
Image VI: Howard Tangye, Russian (Blue Polo, Red Cardigan), 2011. Courtesy of Amar Singh Gallery, shared exclusively with Unpolished.
Image VII: Portrait of Howard Tangye. Courtesy of Amar Singh Gallery.