3 Unusual Collectors of Indian Art

From Norway to New York, Indian artists have found patrons around the world. We look at three collectors whose travels led them on a journey of collecting. Paintings from their collections feature in our upcoming September auction.

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4 “Blue” Chip Works of Art

In our forthcoming Evening Sale, four renowned Modernists explore the potential of the colour blue—each envisioning an imagined, real or metaphorical landscape—in their own unique way.

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A Legend Passes Away: Mrinalini Mukherjee

Rashmi Rajgopal tries rebuilding the image of  the artist and sculptor and asks readers to add in their pieces as well

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

How do you create an image of someone you have never met before in your life? Instinct would drive you to read about this person, or speak with people who knew her. But if you’re looking for something more impactful, simply attend a memorial service being held for that person.

On Friday, February 6, visitors flooded the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi in remembrance of acclaimed artist and sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee. The NGMA, currently holding a retrospective titled “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”, held a memorial service for the artist who, aged 65, had succumbed to a prolonged lung problem last Monday. Among those who spoke fondly of her were Professor Rajeev Lochan, director of the NGMA; Peter Nagy, curator of the ongoing retrospective; critic Geeta Kapur; and some of the artist’s close friends whose messages were read out during the service. As Professor Lochan put it, “It was a tragic irony that Mrinalini was hospitalised just a day before the opening of the solo exhibition and that she could not see the impact it had made on art lovers.”

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

It’s possible that visitors at the memorial were drawn there owing to a deep sense of respect for the artist and her work. It’s possible that some among them were present out of curiosity and, perhaps, were in the dark about the artist. Who was Mrinalini Mukherjee? Why did she matter? What legacy did she leave behind?

For those who knew her, Mrinalini was a woman with a powerful personality, and an emblem for women artists carving their paths in the art world. Over the phone, artist Shukla Sawant spoke of how revolutionary Mrinalini was, as an artist and person. “She had an astonishing personality and lived life on her own terms. For my generation of artists, I think this is very important,” said Shukla.

Mrinalini came from a lineage of artists. Born in 1949 to the illustrious artist pair Binodebehari and Leela Mukherjee, Mrinalini did not let their success overshadow her career, and grew to become a fearless and unconventional artist. She studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda (1965-1970). While there, she discovered hemp fibre and it featured frequently in her sculptures. By choosing to use this unusual medium, often dyed in vibrant shades, she imbued her works with a rare sensitivity and grace of form.

Van Raja (King of the Forest), 1991-1994, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Van Raja (King of the Forest), 1991-1994, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Aranyani,1996, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Aranyani, 1996, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Vruksha Nata,1991-92, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Vruksha Nata, 1991-92, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Works like Vana Raja, Aranyani, and Vruksha Nata offer a window into the artist’s meticulous mind. With incredible attention to detail, Mrinalini has breathed into them a striking semblance to organic motifs. Every fold and contour has a restrained elegance, yet appears robust.

While hemp carried with it a certain flexibility, she also worked with ceramic and bronze. Her choice of mediums symbolised a gamut of personalities. Ceramic offers a brittle resilience, and bronze possesses a more obstinate strength in its form and nature. Mrinalini’s sculptures were sensuous: they drew from organic forms and resembled plant motifs, but also bore strong sexual undercurrents. She opened a new avenue through her choices and imparted each work with a layered personality.

Forest Flame IV, Bronze, 2009, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Forest Flame IV, Bronze, 2009, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Orange & Green, 2000, Ceramic, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Orange & Green, 2000, Ceramic, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Matrix 4, 2006, Bronze, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Matrix 4, 2006, Bronze, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Flora (light), 2000, partially glazed ceramic, Collection: Mirchandani & Steinruecke Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Flora (light), 2000, partially glazed ceramic, Collection: Mirchandani & Steinruecke
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

“Transfigurations…” features some remarkable sculptures and encapsulates the legacy she has left behind. Her works are also part of many renowned collections both in India and abroad, such as the NGMA in New Delhi, Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, the Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi, the Chandigarh State Museum, and the Tate Modern in London.

Mrinalini’s image is far from complete. If you’re reading this, do acquaint yourself with her works and add in your own pieces. We may never get close to building a complete picture – the task is too monumental. But we would be adding to a bigger, richer memory of what she aimed to show the world.

When you see a painting and don’t know what it is, you look…

Behind the Picture

If you were in our gallery earlier this month, ambling about with an all-knowing smile plastered across your face to mask the “Hmm, this is interesting, but I don’t get it and the catalogue is a bit dense to bother reading” tumult your mind was going through, this is it. Starting today, we’re picking some of the most exciting lots from our upcoming live auction and giving you crisp, palatable snippets about them. Perhaps now you’ll reach out to them and invite them for a chat over tea and biscuits.

But we know it’s all subjective, and you have your favourites. Don’t see them here? Leave a Facebook comment or write to us, and we’ll try to cover a few more—succintly—on our blog.

We’ll be updating this space with all posts in the series, so be sure not to miss out on any!

1. A possible drive down the French countryside would yield this….if you were in the 1950s…and if you were S.H. Raza

2. Imagine a very important religious subject. Now go back a thousand years or so, and think of a thousand ways of portraying three figures and a donkey. Ran out of options at #999? Not if you’re Jehangir Sabavala.

 

“Mughal India: Art, Culture & Empire” Comes To New Delhi

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses the British Library’s exhibition now on display in New Delhi.

New York:  This winter, the British Library has brought its exhibition “Mughal India: Art, Culture & Empire” to New Delhi. This show provides an amazing opportunity for pieces that are usually hidden in the depths of the library collection to be shown to the public for the very first time. Originally established in Britain, and then later in Kabul, Afghanistan, this collection is a strong representation of Mughal art history. The New Delhi exhibition is produced by Roli Books in conjunction with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts alongside the original curatorial team from the British Library. It will offer an opportunity for this period in Indian history to be told in a beautiful and informative way. 

The exhibition consists of paintings and alluringly illustrated manuscripts, most commissioned by the Mughal emperors and other important figureheads of the time. These pieces contribute an illustrative history of the Mughal Empire. Each piece contributes a beautiful crafted depiction of upperclass life at this point in history. Scenes of court gatherings, hunting, royal portraiture and Indian landscapes are all shown with picturesque detail. The emblematic quality of these images is rich. Each piece has a wealth of historical knowledge and narrative, even in a single image. In addition to these scenes, very rare books and manuscripts are featured in the exhibition including “Book of Affairs of Love” by Rai Anand Ram Mukhlis and “Notebook of Fragrance” by Shah Jahan. Because the British Library is not a museum with continual exhibitions, many of these pieces are rarely seen or displayed. Not only does this collection contribute to our overall knowledge of the cultural setting of Mughal India it also shows the worldview during this time period. Pivotal historical documents such as the first Indian atlas, a city map of Delhi and a trade route from Delhi to Qandahar are included.

This exhibition is a beautiful and informative retelling of the history of Mughal India. To learn more about events and publications associated with this exhibition please view the British Library website here.

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