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Indian art on a global Highway
London’s Serpentine Gallery showcases modern and contemporary art. Its exhibitions and architecture, education and public programs attract thousands of visitors. The new show ‘Indian Highway’ features artists from India who have already made a significant impact on the international art scene alongside budding art practitioners.

Most artworks have been selected for their connection to the theme of in the exhibit, reflecting the importance of the road in migration and movement and as the link between urban and rural communities. Some works reference the technology and the ‘information superhighway’, central to the country’s economic boom.

A common thread binding these works is the way in which they demonstrate an active sociopolitical engagement, as the artists look to examine complex issues in contemporary India like environmentalism, religious sectarianism, globalization, sexuality and class issues.

‘Indian Highway’ will develop further as it tours to different international institutions over the next four years with the addition of new artworks and a section curated by Bose Krishnamachari. Artists showcased include Ayisha Abraham, Ravi Agarwal, Nikhil Chopra, Sheela Gowda, Sakshi Gupta, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, N. S. Harsha, M. F. Husain, Jitish Kallat, Amar Kanwar, Bharti Kher, Bose Krishnamachari, Nalini Malani, Tejal Shah, Dayanita Singh, Kiran Subbaiah, Ashok Sukumaran and Shaina Anand.

In context of the remarkable, rapid economic and socio-cultural developments in India, ‘Indian Highway’ is a timely showcase of the path breaking work being done in the country recently. This group exhibition serves as a snapshot of a vibrant generation of artists who work across a range of media. It is the culmination of extensive research.

To frame and contextualize the work by the younger generation artists, new paintings created specially by India’s most acclaimed living artist M. F. Husain will also be presented. The series, depicting the history of India, will be presented on a structure around the exterior of the building, designed by architect duo of Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Müller.

‘Indian Highway’ is curated by Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Directors, Serpentine Gallery, and Gunnar B. Kvaran, Director, Astrup Fearnley Museum, in association with Rebecca Morrill and assisted by Leila Hasham, in consultation with art experts from the region and beyond.

Among the artists featured, Subodh Gupta uses found objects that are recognizable icons of everyday Indian life. The work of Bose Krishnamachari ranges from multi-colored abstractions and realistic figurative paintings to mixed-media installations. Working across sculpture, photograph and painting, Bharti Kher too explores a diverse range of issues.

Nalini Malani sources subject matter from different histories and cultures, including episodes from both Western and Eastern literature and myth. Formally trained as a sculptor, Kiran Subbaiah works in a range of media, including assemblage, video and internet art. Bangalore-based artist Ayisha Abraham (born 1963) creates experimental films that examine narratives of identity, memory and history, representing their inherent complexities by inter-cutting dislocated images and sounds. Ravi Agarwal combines social documentary and environmental activism in his films and photography.

Sheela Gowda’s process-based practice includes paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations. It blurs the boundary between fine art and craft. Shilpa Gupta uses digital media in the form of online art projects and video environments fused with sculptural and photographic elements. Ashok Sukumaran (born 1974) and Shaina Anand (born 1975), an architect and a film-maker are co-founders of CAMP, a collaborative venture linking independent artistic research and software-based activities at ‘infrastructural scales’ in Mumbai.

Tejal Shah works in video, photography and performance. Dayanita Singh is best known for her photographic portraits of India’s urban middle and upper-class families. N. S. Harsha is celebrated for reworking Indian miniature painting as a platform for a powerful social and political commentary.

‘Indian Highway’ also features a special project curated by Raqs Media Collective that includes work by Debkamal Ganguly, Ruchir Joshi, Kavita Pai & Hansa Thapliyal, M. R. Rajan, Priya Sen, Surabhi Sharma and Vipin Vijay. Formed in 1992, the collective art venture comprises Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. Their work locates them on the intersections of contemporary art, historical enquiry, philosophical speculation, research and theory, often taking the form of installations, online and offline media objects, performances and encounters.

Indian art is truly set on a global Highway thanks to this ambitious art event.