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Factors prompting India’s artistic emergence
Over the last few years, renowned galleries across the world are hosting acclaimed artists from India in a series of group and solo shows in order to deepen the audience interest in contemporary Indian art. Driven by a belief that globalization is a complex challenge and not merely a convenient tag to substitute the typical ‘internationality’ of the modern age, these prestigious art institutions are keen to investigate art trends in emerging social and economic superpowers like India. This line of thinking in spheres of contemporary art is well reflected in a series of recent curatorial ventures as well as the choice of names, who are known to respond to deeper criteria than just belonging to a particular state or nation (though that too is significant!).

During the recent years, several contemporary Indian artists have received increasing appreciation globally. Through diverse forms of expression and perspectives they pose questions about what it means to live in present-day India - a country whose socio-economic growth and cultural development have been accompanied by tumultuous social changes. Urbanization and migration create a major impact, leaving behind distinct class demarcations; geographical boundaries are being re-set and maps are getting re-drawn; urban centers are growing by leaps and bounds, whereas the separation between city, state and country has gradually blurred, generating visible fault lines.

India is experiencing dramatic socio-political transformation alongside remarkable economic growth. With a keen eye on the country’s past and an informed view to the future, the new-generation artists are responding to these changes, as they look to examine their social, political, economic and religious implications. Their work often revolves around the outwardly stable economic and social situation that has brought India into international spotlight, at one level, even while capturing the travails of the common people– a byproduct of skewed progress, at another level.

Concepts of life and existence continually shift for many people, and their living conditions change rapidly. In this context, today’s consumerist society and a fast-expanding global market are often the focus of these socially sensitive artists’ work. It traces the myriad possibilities, tackles the complex challenges, and grasps the inherent risks involved in a new world order in which every event has multiple shades. Indian mythology and history are also the point of departure in many of them. Mapping these tumultuous transformation, several leading contemporary artists regularly feature at the prestigious shows and art events that question today’s consumerist culture, pointedly questioning the relationship between use and value, as well as highlighting contradictions inherent in everyday life with a touch of irony and crude aesthetic, at times.

Studio la Città in Verona, Italy (Riyas Komu, Jagannath Panda, and Hema Upadhyay); Berlin based Arndt & Partner (ARNDT) hosting a Jitish Kallat solo, entitled ‘Likewise’; his ‘Public Notice 3’ at The Art Institute of Chicago Indian Highway’ at the Reykjavík Art Museum, Iceland; Hauser & Wirth presenting paintings by Subodh Gupta in its new Zurich space, an installation by Raqs Media Collective at York based e-flux; Nalini Malani’s retrospective at Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne; ‘In Transition: New Art from India’ (TV Santhosh, Sudarshan Shetty, Shilpa Gupta, Reena Kallat etc) at Richmond Art Gallery in Canada are some of the prominent examples. ‘India Awakes: Under the Banyan Tree’ at the Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg in Austria, ‘Chalo India’ at Victoria Miro, Thomas Gibson in London, Gallery Krinzinger in Vienna and Berlin based Gallerie Christian Hosp are other major instances.

Also, many prestigious international fairs such as Art Basel and the Venice Biennale are featuring leading Indian galleries, recognizing the country’ artistic emergence. Several prestigious museums like Glenbarra prominently display Indian art. 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. Stretching its rich collection to the present era, the museum also hosted ‘Bharat Ratna’ (Jewel of India), a collection drawn from Mr. and Mrs. Rajiv Jahangir Chaudhri. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) based in Shanghai hosted a milestone exhibition, entitled ‘India Xianzai’ a couple of year ago. It was a ‘timely investigation of the increasing presence of contemporary Indian art in Asia, and the encounter between what really constitutes Indianness in the context of today’s art and 'global' community.

Massachusetts based Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) 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 solo and group shows of modern & contemporary artists, insightful publications, and programs towards engendering appreciation of Indian art and culture. The trend is largely being 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 work reflects 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.

To sum up, India’s fast flourishing contemporary art scene coupled with the recent economic upheavals have prompted critical questions related to culture and social structure in a nation caught between a dependence on global developments and an independent mindset. Today’s generation of dynamic and socially aware artists demonstrates, on the one hand, a constantly changing cultural feedback related to their very roots; on the other hand they are very much interested in exploring new global visual idioms. No surprise, the increasing presence of Indian art internationally can be attributed to their works that respond to the country’s dramatic socio-political, economic transformation and its implications.