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World-renowned museums collect and host Indian art
Indian contemporary art scene is fast evolving, especially in terms of global recognition. New-age artists from the country are making a diverse range of work, in response to the increased complexities of 21st-century. Many of them through their art are grappling with theme like rampant urban expansion, growing slums and migration. It is not surprising that there’s immense interest in Indian art, internationally. In this backdrop, comprehensive shows and collections of renowned museums in the recent years are aimed at giving a fair idea of the current state of the Indian art scene.

•The just concluded ‘India: Art Now’ at Denmark-based ARKEN Museum comprised several talented Indian artists and artist groups whose works revolve around among other things the city, the intimate sphere and the relations between culture, identity and the conditions of life in our global society.

•The Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon has maintained a unique relationship between its eclectic collection and rich exhibition. It hosted a comprehensive show of contemporary Indian art, entitled 'Indian Highway IV'. In the curious form of a road movie spread across three continents (South America, Asia and Europe), each stage along the massive and ambitious group show, entitled ‘Indian Highway’, was the platform for a totally new art episode.

• Aimed at providing a glimpse of the vibrant contemporary Indian art, ‘India Contemporary’ was collated at Dutch museum GEM a few years ago to bring out how Indian artists now combines a latent understanding of the western canon of art even while retaining its cultural nuances and origins.

• A two-part show, entitled Passage to India’ courtesy Initial Access, Wolverhampton, was part of its enchanting exploration of Indian contemporary art from the Frank Cohen Collection. ‘Re-Imagining Asia’, curated by Shaheen Merali and Wu Hung for Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt explored the meaning and relevance of the contemporary Asian art in the 21st century, within a wider context of globalization and increasing migration, leading to a truly global world.

• Mention must also be made of ‘India Xianzai’, a major museum show at Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), Shanghai, in 2009. It was a comprehensive showcase of Indian contemporary art in China, an outcome of efforts by Seven Art Limited, ICIA (Institute of Contemporary Indian Art) and The ICCR. Diana Freundl, art director of Art+ Shanghai, along with Alexander Keefe visualized the ambitious art project.

The Rubin Museum of Art boasts of a vast collection of religious art from cultures of the Himalayan mountain range, including those of Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet as well as the interrelated traditions of India and China. A group show currently on view at the museum gallery, entitled ‘Radical Terrain’, is the third one in the series Modernist Art from India. It focuses on the exploration of landscape in Indian art specifically for the generation post Independence. ‘The Body Unbound’ marked the first exhibit in the series encompassing India’s Modernist Art that highlighted predominant themes and extraordinary examples of modernist art from post-Independence period. ‘Approaching Abstraction’ was the second part that built on the explorations between abstraction and figuration, looking to distinguish abstraction in modernist Indian art from abstraction in Euro-American modernism and shows the former’s independent trajectory of abstraction.

On the other hand, ‘The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today’ at the London’s vivacious and spacious venue of The Saatchi in 2010 offered an interpretation of new India by artists with an oeuvre containing strong denunciation of the socio-political implications of impending globalization, the disenfranchisement of remote rural areas and also the rise of fundamentalism and intolerance. The organizers stated, "The fast flourishing art scene on the one hand and the recent economic upheavals on the other have prompted critical questions about Indian culture and globalization in a nation torn between a dependence on global consumption and a proudly independent mindset. Against this backdrop, contemporary Indian artists are making a wide range of work that responds to the modern complexities."

The mission of the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is to celebrate artistic and cultural creativity by collecting and interpreting objects of art in ways that increase knowledge, stimulate the senses, and engage the mind. Through its exhibits, publications, programs and related activities, PEM strives to create experiences that will transform people's lives by enhancing their perspectives and knowledge of themselves and the broader world. A major installation of works from its collection of Indian art underlined how art was an integral part of daily life with paintings, textiles, sculpture and other forms ingrained in the people’s religious practices as well as in the expression of their social position. Another significant show, entitled ’Painting the Modern in India’ featured several renowned painters who came of age during the peak of India’s freedom movement.

To liberate themselves from a position at the margins of an art world shaped by the colonial establishment, they organized path-breaking associations - the Calcutta Artists Group (1943), the Progressive Artists Group (1947), and the Delhi Shilpi Chakra (1949). They developed new pioneering approaches to painting, and repositioned their own practices internationally as well as in context of the ancient history of art in the country. These artists created hybrid styles, an under-appreciated albeit essential element of the broad sweep of art in the 20th century. After independence, they explored new opportunities in major art centers across the globe, intensifying their artistic quests, as the museum curators emphasized.

More than a decade ago, it was only those with a dedicated interest in art who visited the galleries to check artworks. Steadily the audience has grown and awareness levels have increased thanks to the Internet. The viewership for exhibits of contemporary Indian art has gone up significantly during the recent years as interest in it has developed. Keeping this in mind, a series of dynamic and vast museum shows and collections over the last few years have tried to touch upon the themes of cultural assimilation that concern not only India, but also many expanding Asian countries.