National Museum hosts 'The Body in Indian Art' exhibition in Delhi
The National Museum is holding a 11-week-long landmark exhibition here titled 'The Body in Indian Art'. The asks profound questions about the way in which Indians have chosen to represent the body through millennia, across region, religion and culture.
Curated by Dr.Naman P Ahuja, and inaugurated by Culture Secretary Ravindra Singh in the presence of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Director-General Satish Mehta on March 14, the exhibition has close to 300 objects on display, from 44 institutions and individuals across the country.
The exhibition has been received wonderfully in the Europalia Festival that took place in Brussels, Belgium. The Government of India worked hard to ensure the success of the exhibition enabling many artworks to be sent abroad. In this exhibition, we are also showcasing some extremely rare and fragile works that could not be sent abroad. Some of them have never been exhibited before.
'The Body in Indian Art' is organized into eight themes in specially designed galleries covering more than 15,000 sq ft (18,000 sq ft). The eight themes are (i) death, the end of the body; (ii) birth and re-birth; (iii) the place of astrology and cosmology in determining the fortunes of the body; (iv) the nature of divine bodies; (v) heroism and ideal bodies; (vi) asceticism and the development of practices of healing and yoga; and (vii) it explores the body in rapture, possessed, by art, by nature. Religious traditions that do not use the human form are also represented. Where the depiction of the body is many traditions in Jain, Buddhist and Islamic art have found 'aniconic' or non-corporeal means of expressing their reverence.
'The Body in Indian Art' breaks with many traditional conventions of museum classification, by region, religion or period. "By showing 20th-century Naga sculptures alongside 13th-century Sati memorial stones, the viewer is forced to confront modern attitudes to universal questions of life, death and destiny," says Dr Ahuja. "How are our attitudes shaped by our history and destiny? Do human bodies exercise individual agency?"
The exhibition provides compelling juxtapositions: What are the ways in which different religious traditions have influenced each other - for instance through the classification and spread of yogic ideas in ascetic and medical works which spread throughout the Muslim world.
The exhibition is multi-media with clips from documentaries and films. Music was especially arranged and recorded to accompany some paintings. There are eight video pieces and works by some of India's most prominent contemporary artists such as Sheela Gowda, Mrinalini Mukherjee and Subodh Gupta. They are joined by popular work such as Amar Chitra Katha comics and modern pieces made specially for the exhibition by craftsmen using their traditional skills.
Dr Ahuja says "Modern art exists in many forms, and it is separately classified because it appeals to different economic strata. We need to be more conscious of the ways in which different art forms coexist and inform each other."
The 'Body in Indian Art' is part of a wider project to reinvigorate National Museum and create new audiences for its extraordinary collections.
"This is the most ambitious exhibition of Indian art seen anywhere in the world since 1982. We are very proud that the National Museum and ICCR have been able to achieve such an extraordinary collaborative effort for Indian and foreign audiences. Through rigorous and exciting scholarship and modern design, we are gaining new audiences and bringing National Museum into the 21st century," said Dr. Venu.
(Posted on 26-03-2014)