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A show of contemporary Indian art in Norway
Following the remarkable and rapid socio-economic and cultural developments witnessed in India in recent decades, Indian art has gained in prominence globally. A new show in Norway reflects the growing stature of contemporary Indian art. Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway has come up with a timely presentation of the pioneering work by leading artists from India today, who are embracing art, architecture, literature, film, and dance.

‘Indian Highway’ is an ambitious show of leading artists from the country. The artists whose works form part of it include top names, such as Bharti Kher, Riyas Komu, Bose Krishnamachari, Nalini Malani, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Sheela Gowda, M.F. Husain, Jitish Kallat, Anant Joshi, Ruchir Joshi, Amar Kanwar, N.S. Harsha, Abhishek Hazra, Prajakta Potnis, Raqs Media Collective, M.R. Rajan, Sumedh Rajendran, Priya Sen, Tejal Shah, Dayanita Singh, Kiran Subbaiah, Nikhil Chopra, Ayisha Abraham, Ravi Agarwal, Vipin Vijay, Vivek Vilasini, Hema Upadhyay, and Sudarshan Shetty.

The group show pioneers a radical model of curating, as curators are invited to develop a ‘show within a show’ inside the main exhibition. The New Delhi-based multi-media artists, Raqs Media Collective, have collated works of documentary film-makers to be included in the exhibition’s tour, with section curated by the artist Bose Krishnamachari.

At each subsequent international venue, starting with Norway, different Indian artists or groups will invite their contemporaries to exhibit specific works that present views and new perspectives of Indian art and allowing the project to grow and develop in totally unexpected ways. The organizers depict the entire exercise as a new glorious chapter in ‘their sustained focus on the arts of three major cultural regions, namely China, India and the Middle East’. ‘China Power Station: Part I’ presented in London, in 2006 and in 2007 in Oslo was an extension of this strategy.

In continuation of the effort backed by field-based research, the new exhibition presents a snapshot of a vibrant generation of new-age artists who are working across a range of media - painting, photography, sculpture, installation, Internet and video art. It features those who have already made an impact on international art carefully juxtaposed with emerging practitioners of new media art.

An introductory note by the event director mentions that some art works in the show have been selected for their connection to the broad theme of ‘Indian Highway’, reflecting the importance of the road in migration and movement and the vital link between rural and urban communities. Other creations make reference to cutting-edge technology and the ‘information superhighway’ that has been central to the country’s economic boom.

An introductory essay explains, “A common thread throughout is the way in which the participating artists demonstrate an active political and social engagement, intensely examining complex issues in an Indian society undergoing transition that include globalization, environmentalism, religious sectarianism, gender, sexuality and class issues.

Each manifestation of this ambitious exhibition showcase will include site-specific elements. For instance, a series of new paintings has been created by India’s most distinguished living artist, M. F. Husain, at the Serpentine Gallery. The curatorial note points out: “Husain’s work frames and contextualizes the art being made by a younger generation of artists. The exhibition offers Husain the opportunity to realize a continuous painting of epic proportions.”

The paintings are integrated into a structure around the exterior of the building, designed by architects Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Müller. The duo has also designed a structure inside the Serpentine for the discrete ‘show within a show’ curated by Raqs Media Collective, which builds on their previous collaborations.

To expand the focus of the project beyond the visual arts, a series of public events relating to Indian art and culture has been planned to accompany the exhibition. A publication to go with the exhibition presents a thorough guide to the current flourishing art scene in India by curators and writers, Suman Gopinath and Grant Watson. The catalogue includes texts on the artists and their historical and cultural context by eminent scholar of Indian visual culture, Geeta Kapur, Ranjit Hoskote and Savita Apte.