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Prestigious museums worldwide collect and display Indian art
Several prestigious museums worldwide now prominently display Indian art. The trend is largely driven by immense curiosity among aware art lovers to explore India’s astonishing transition from a humble agrarian economy to an economic superpower with complex socio-political connotations as seen through the eyes of premier artists.

Their art works reflect the real India, traversing pre-conceived notions and leading to a greater understanding of the depth and diversity of the country’s rich culture, new-found spirit and dynamic way of living, which is unique, yet universal even in its Indianness. “Above all there is a sense of creative adventure that reaches out to something beyond the image, through the image - be it figurative or abstract,” the director of Glenbarra art museum, Masanori Fukuoka, has once remarked: ”This, I feel, is what captivated me - the glimpse of a window in the image, opening to a space beyond."

The grand museum in Japan is Masanori Fukuoka’s brainchild. It boasts of a truly rich collection of Indian art by masters and contemporaries like Akbar Padamsee, Arpita Singh, F.N. Souza, Ganesh Pyne, Jogen Chowdhury, J. Swaminathan, M.F. Hussain, Nasreen Mohamedi, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Ved Nayar, V.S. Gaitonde, Atul Dodiya, Krishen Khanna, Laxma Goud, Manjit Bawa, Prabhakar Kolte, and Prabhakar Barwe.

In affirmation of the rising stature of Indian art on the international scene, The San Diego Museum of Art organized a groundbreaking exhibit in collaboration with the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in 2008, to survey the expansive repertoire of artist Nandalal Bose, outside of Asia for the first time. ‘Rhythms of India ‘featured nearly 100 of his finest paintings, executed in a variety of media and styles.

On the other hand, The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) houses preeminent collections of world art, including one of the most encyclopedic collections of Indian art in the US. It has an extensive holding that comprises paintings, sculptures and decorative objects dating from the 3rd millennium B.C. to the 21st century. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, who introduced ancient Indian art to the West, compiled much of the Southern Asian collection.

Stretching its rich collection to the present era, the museum is hosting ‘Bharat Ratna’ (Jewel of India), drawn from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Rajiv Jahangir Chaudhri. This is an outstanding body of works by India’s most celebrated modern painters, including luminaries of post-Independence era like Souza, Husain, and Raza, who founded the Progressive Artists Group (PAG), an important artistic avant-garde at defining transitional moment in India’s art history.

Another noteworthy art institution keen to promote contemporary Indian art is The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) based in Shanghai. This premier, independently run contemporary art institution, funded by the Samuel Kung Foundation and endorsed by the Shanghai Municipal Government, aims to nurture the appreciation of Chinese and international art. The MoCA hosted last year a milestone exhibition, entitled ‘India Xianzai’.

It was a ‘timely investigation of the increasing presence of contemporary Indian art in Asia, and the encounter between what really constitutes Indian-ness in the context of today’s art and 'global' community. The curators, Alexander Keefe and Diana Freundl, had mentioned: “An examination of various processes, narrative structures as well as aesthetic strategies, which tend to focus on the question of culture as an agency in artistic expression, the show touches upon the theme of cultural assimilation concerning not only India, but also other expanding Asian countries.”

Another prominent institution that promotes India art is Massachusetts based Peabody Essex Museum (PEM). The museum has established a unique international position as the possessor of a comprehensive collection that showcases both breadth and depth of stupendous Indian artistic achievement. It presents a wide array of exhibits of modern and contemporary artists, publications, and programs towards engendering appreciation of Indian art and culture. The PEM started collecting Indian art in late 18th century. Among its most stunning pieces of art are those from the renowned Chester & Davida Herwitz collection of contemporary Indian art. The Harmony Art Foundation has also lent it three works by contemporary Indian art masters, namely F.N. Souza's ‘Birth’, Paritosh Sen's ‘Ahmedabad Scene’ and Anish Kapoor's ‘Halo’, as part of its annual festival of Indian art & culture.

The PEM is currently hosting a collection of ‘Traditional Art from India’. A curatorial note elaborates: “In India, art is an integral part of daily life. The importance of paintings, sculpture, textiles and other art forms comprises two basic categories, one related to religious practices and the other to the expression of prestige and social position. This new installation of works from our collection features pieces, representing the 1800’s to the present.”

A wide variety of wonderful works displayed at these world-renowned institutions reveal the way artists from different time periods have contributed to the development of an inimitable Indian art idiom and form, laying the foundation for modern visual culture in a truly global context.