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Celebrating glorious past and promising future of Indian art
The Louvre Paris is one of the most renowned museums in the world. Its president Henri Loyrette is looking forward to engage with talented contemporary Indian artists. The art aficionado visited the country last month, to take stock of its thriving art scene. Keeping in mind the vitality and dynamism of their work, the institution is eager to associate with top names like Subodh Gupta.

Louvre currently possesses only Mughal miniatures that form part of its Islamic arts department. They constitute just a drop in the vast ocean of the thriving Indian art scene. This is exactly why he wants to know more about its dynamic art scenario. Loyrette has emphasized in a media interaction that India, just like China, cannot be ignored, “We've been inspired by the exhibits of Indian art in Paris and a growing number of Indians are now visiting the Louvre. I don't know much about artists from India. I'm hoping to do so in near future. This visit should help me in that regard.” In fact, he reportedly explored the different possibilities of collaboration with established gallerists, leading museums such as the NGMA, the government officials, intellectuals, top collectors including Kiran Nadar, the Ambanis, the Poddars etc, and of course, the artists themselves.

Meanwhile, according to media reports, London’s Tate Modern is establishing new acquisition committees, specializing in African and Indian contemporary art - a sign that the institution is expanding curatorially as well as physically. In another indication of the growing prominence of contemporary Indian art, Bharti Kher has been recently invited to join the Absolut Vodka campaign. Following in the footsteps of her celebrated artist-husband Subodh Gupta, she has interpreted this deceptively simple-looking, albeit amazing bottle as part of its iconic ad campaign. Witty, yet sophisticated; contemporary, yet timeless; it has stretched the boundaries between art and ads, starting with the godfather of pop art, Andy Warhol. Damien Hirst, Stella McCartney, Francesco Clemente, Louise Bourgeois, and Gianni Versace are among the other celebrity contributors to this hugely applauded concept, all preserved at the Museum of Wine & Spirits, Stockholm.

A two-dimensional, six-feet tall bottle-shaped magnificent mirror installation by the renowned contemporary artist sports a swirl of bewildering bindis that she often uses as a metaphor for the third eye. When one stands before it, one can look at one’s own reflection in the broken mirror, well-framed in a vodka bottle’s shape. It’s like seeing one own self inside - akin to a genie in a bottle. She elaborates: “I have used broken mirror to convey that it actually provides a chance to see your real self and that there’s nothing like considering it as a symbol of bad luck. It’s a reflection of your true self.” Her work will be displayed in different metros of India before being presented at the Indian Art Fair.

Meanwhile, Dubai-based Art Select along with Mantram Art Foundation recently hosted works of both established and emerging Indian artists, highlighting diversity and versatility of a wide array of idioms, themes and palettes in their works. ‘Place in the Sun’ was officially inaugurated by the ambassador of India to the UAE, Lokesh Kapaniah and the consul general of India, Sanjay Verma. The display had a common thread of both anticipation and joy in the life journey. According to curator Raji Narayan, an artist’s inspiration is derived from infinite sources, unwinding its way through the mind, juxtaposed with various levels of the conscious, subconscious and the unconscious. He added: “Indians in the present day milieu are exposed to cross cultural ideas and mystical serenity. The works our artists produce straddle diverse cultures, influenced by dialogues, language, habits, and emotions of fears, anger, hope, desire...”

In another significant development, two new galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston celebrate rare sculptural gems from India as well as other countries from South and Southeast Asia, starting with a collection, entitled ‘Gems of Rajput Painting’. This exquisite stream of Indian painting, commissioned during the 16th to 19th centuries by rulers (Rajputs or ‘sons of kings’) in Rajasthan who shared a culture centered on Sanskrit poetry, Hindu worship and the fierce pride of warrior clans, was discovered only in the past 100 years by Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877–1947), the MFA’s first curator of Indian art. The paintings and manuscript illustrations on view represent the peak of the artistic traditions developed at workshops associated with the many Rajput courts.

Usually painted on paper in watercolor (gouache), often brightly hued with gold accents, they often illustrate poetic texts and are small in size. A 21st-century take on the Rajput vision of elite court life reflects in ‘Horse with Gold Head’ Dress (Udaipur, 2007) by contemporary artist Raja Ram Sharma, who has used traditional Rajput techniques to create it. Thematic groupings in this exhibit are designed to let viewers easily follow the material, illuminating the conventions these artists followed and played with in their wonderful work. “Rajput painting is one of the great traditions of Indian art, and yet for some, the exaggerated bodies, incredibly bold colors, and use of multiple perspectives can be dizzying,” the curator Laura Weinstein explains.

Over 100 works in the all-new South Asian & Southeast Asian Sculpture Gallery highlight the rich artistic traditions of countries like India. Many of the art objects on view have only recently been conserved. These exquisite pieces are celebrated not only for their unique cultural identity, but also as distinct reflections of 2,000 years of major exchange of ideas and aesthetics. The world-renowned museum strives to present South and Southeast Asian art from a new angle. A series of special programs will complement the exhibition so that the people can explore Indian art and culture through the lens of epic stories, religious rituals, sacred space, contemporary literature and film.