East of India: Forgotten Trade with Australia

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares a note on an exhibition currently on view at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney

East of India: Forgotten Trade with Australia

East of India: Forgotten Trade with Australia. Image Credit: http://www.anmm.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=2116

London: The Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney is currently hosting the exhibition, “East of India: Forgotten Trade with Australia”.

Seringapatam Painting

Seringapatam Painting. Image Credit: Australian National Maritime Musem

The exhibition visually narrates past colonial links between Australia and India, the power of the English East India Company and its decline, as well as the modern ties between the two countries. Textiles, coins, ceramics, prints, movies and many other items bear witness to these long lasting links between the two countries, and form the bulk of the display.

"Star Pagoda" Coin, Gold, India, c.1790-1807

“Star Pagoda” Coin, Gold, India, c.1790-1807. Image Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum

A majority of the objects on display (over 300) have been borrowed both from Australian and international collections such as those of the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal Collection in the United Kingdom.

Death of Munro, Glazed Earthenware, Staffordshire, c.1830

Death of Munro, Glazed Earthenware, Staffordshire, c.1830. Image Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum

Below you can enjoy one of the videos from the exhibition’s section, “Contemporary Connections”, which discusses the issue of identity for Indian-Australians.

The exhibition will remain on view until August 18, and you can find more information about the show here.

Light from the Middle East: New Photography at the V&A (13 November 2012 – 7 April 2013)

Guest blogger Saranna Biel-Cohen shares highlights from Light from the Middle East: New Photography, at the V&A in London

London: This exhibition is a collaboration between the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum and a result of a grant given by The Art Fund in 2009 enabling the museums to collect contemporary Middle Eastern photography. You can read more about the grant on the Art Fund’s website. This is the first major exhibition of contemporary photography from and about the Middle East, featuring 30 artists from 13 countries in the region and in the diaspora. The exhibition is divided into three sections, RECORDING, REFRAMING and RESISTING, referencing the intention and styles of the medium.

RECORDING : Photography can accurately document an event, people or place and can be commemorative or historic. The exhibition later calls into question the reliability of the image by juxtaposing historical snapshots to staged or manipulated images.

The exhibition opens with veteran Iranian photojournalist, Abbas’ black and white series Iran Diary, documenting events during the Iranian revolution.

Abbas, 'Rioters burn a portrait of the Shah as a sign of protest against his regime. Tehran,December 1978', from the series Iran Diary, 1978-9, courtesy V&A

Abbas, ‘Rioters burn a portrait of the Shah as a sign of protest against his regime. Tehran,
December 1978′, from the series Iran Diary, 1978-9, courtesy V&A

Mehraneh Atashi captures aspects of Iranian life not often seen outside the country (and sometimes even inside). She visited a zurkhana, an Iranian wrestling gym, a place usually forbidden to women. She includes her own image in the composition, framed by portraits of religious figures.

Mehraneh Atashi, 'Bodiless I', from the series Zourkhaneh Project (House of Strength), 2004, courtesy V&A

Mehraneh Atashi, ‘Bodiless I’, from the series Zourkhaneh Project (House of Strength), 2004, courtesy V&A

Abbas Kowsari, originally a photojournalist and better known as the Senior Photo Editor for the Tehran-based newspaper E’temad, photographs a peshmerga, a Kurdish combatant in northern Iraq. The soldier’s face is excluded from the shot, and the subject in the image seems to be the face printed on his t-shirt- Canadian rock singer Bryan Adams, a juxtoposition of warfare and western popular culture.

Abbas Kowsari, Halabche, 2003, courtesy V&A

REFRAMING: Artists also use photography to reference known images, reworking them to make a personal, social or political statement. Inspired by iconic fashion photography, Moroccan born photographer Hassan Hajjij explores western consumerism alongside traditional values. His frames are made of recycled materials, giving a sculptural element to his work.

Hassan Hajjaj, Saida in Green, 2000, courtesy V&A

Between 1989 and 2004, Lebanese born Walid Raad worked on a project titled The Atlas Group, a fictional archive documenting the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). The project includs text, video, installation and photography. This particular work from the series shows notebook pages from the fictional historian named Dr Fakhouri. This character kept a log of every car that was used as a car bomb during war. Read more about Walid Raad.

Walid Raad, Notebook Volume 38: Already Been in a Lake of Fire (Plates 63–64), 2003 courtesy V&A

RESISTING: Artists in this section demonstrate that photography can be manipulated, and truth in the medium is called into question. These artists also explore and expand the use of the medium through digital enhancement, processing techniques and modifications made to the print itself.

Iranian born Taraneh Hemani downloaded mug shots from a US government website just after 9/11. The printed faces are blurred and scratched so the individuals are no longer recognizable, a commentary on western stereotypes of Muslims.

Taraneh Hemami, Most Wanted, 2006, courtesy V&A

Egyptian photographer Nermine Hamman was taken by the events of Tahrir Square in Cairo, January 2011. The army was called in to respond to the protests, and she noticed the young soldiers and their vulnerability during this crisis. She imagined them anywhere but Cairo and superimposed them into vibrant, fantastical settings, recalling and rejecting the propaganda posters of young soldiers during World War II and communist propaganda images.

Hermine Hammam, ‘The Break’, from the series Upekkha, 2011, courtesy V&A

To learn more about the exhibition, click here. Also watch this video.

Guest contributor Saranna Biel-Cohen lives and works in London. She holds a Master’s Degree in History of Art from University College London with a focus on Modern Indian Art.

Sita Devi: A Legendary Mithila Artist

In conjunction with Saffronart’s upcoming auction of Indian Folk & Tribal Art, Nishad Avari shares a note on Sita Devi, one of the most important and celebrated Mithila artists

Mumbai: We have already blogged about the history and aesthetics of Mithila paintings from the Madhubani district of Bihar and traced the development of this art form back to the first record of these works in the mid 1930s made by W.G. Archer and his wife Mildred.

Sita Devi by Edouard Boubat, 1970

Sita Devi photographed by Edouard Boubat, 1970, for the book The Art of Mithila by Yves Véquaud (Image Credit: http://sita-devi.blogspot.in/)

It was in the 1960s and 70s, however, that individual Mithila artists like Ganga Devi and Sita Devi began to be recognized and celebrated. As David Szanton of the Ethnic Arts Foundation notes, “It was paintings by Ganga Devi and Sita Devi thanks to government and private commissions in New Delhi and beyond, their national awards, and their [Government of India] funded participation in cultural fairs and exhibitions around the world, that brought wide-spread audiences and attention to Mithila painting” (“Folk Art No Longer: The Transformations of Mithila Painting”, Biblio, 2004).

Sita Devi, one of the most prominent early Mithila artists and among the first to transfer the traditional art form from the walls of the home to paper and canvas, was a Mahapatra Brahmin from the village of Jitwarpur. Her distinct aesthetic popularized the ‘bharni’ style of Mithila painting, which emphasizes strong colours over fine lines. “Sita Devi’s elegant elongated and richly coloured paintings of Krishna, Radha, and other gods and goddesses, are well known. However, she also painted extraordinary images of the World Trade Center, Arlington National Cemetery, and facades of 19th century buildings in New York City” (Ibid.).

Wall Painting by Sita Devi

Wall painting at the home of Sita Devi, Jitwarpur, 1984 (Image Credit: The Maithil Brahmans, an Online Ethnography, California State University, Chico)

Over the course of her long life (the artist passed away in 2005 at the age of 92), Sita Devi’s work brought critical national and international attention to Mithila art. In addition to her own artistic practice, Sita Devi worked tirelessly to develop and uplift her village and community through education and economic empowerment.

As an artist in residence at the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum in New Delhi, Sita Devi found admirers of her work in several politicians including ex Presidents and Prime Ministers like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Indira Gandhi. In 1975, she won a National Award, a few years later, in 1981 she was awarded the Padma Shri, one of the India’s highest civilian honours, and in 1984 won the Bihar Ratna Samman. During the course of the impressive artistic career, Sita Devi has exhibited her work in more than ten countries, and finds place in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, the Mithila Museum in Japan and many other international institutions.

Sita Devi Museum Works

Works by Sita Devi from the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Mithila Museum, Niigata, Japan, and Victoria and Albert Museum, London

One of the highlights of Saffronart’s upcoming auction of Indian Folk & Tribal Art (26-27 February, 2013) is a monumental painting of Krishna flanked by two attendants by Sita Devi, created in the 1970s. Rather than paper, this painting is created on board, lending it an exquisite finish. Finely detailed with flowers and a peacock at Krishna’s feet, and confidently signed by the artist, this painting is one of the artist’s finest mural-scale works, rivaling those in international museum collections.

Sita Devi

Sita Devi, Untitled, Signed in Devnagari (lower right), c. 1970s, Earth, oxide colours on particle board
72 x 96 in (182.9 x 243.8 cm), Saffronart Auction of Indian Folk & Tribal Art, Lot no. 41

Sita Devi with Indira Gandhi

Sita Devi presents her work of art to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in New Delhi on September 8, 1969 (Image Credit: The Times Of India Group)

Sita Devi

Sita Devi in front of one of her paintings of Krishna and Radha (Image Credit: Rawindra Das, http://www.flickr.com/photos/16413549@N04/2888477108/)

Exploring Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire at the British Library

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart in conversation with Malini Roy, curator of the current Mughal exhibition at the British Library, London

Mughal India Art, Culture and Empire, British Library, London

Mughal India Art, Culture and Empire, British Library, London

London: On display at the British Library until April 2013, ‘Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire’ celebrates the Mughal empire for the first time in its entirety, from its beginning to its eventual decline (1526-1858).

The exhibition, divided thematically, explores the rich cultural heritage the Mughals left  in the fields of art, architecture, literature and science, and it also celebrates the patrons that made these innovations and discoveries possible.

I had the pleasure of meeting Malini Roy at the British Library and asking her few questions about the exhibition.

Malini Roy, Curator of Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, British Library, London

Malini Roy, Curator of Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, British Library, London

Q: The exhibition Mughal India covers the entire Mughal period for the first time. Why did you decide to cover the entire period and not just focus on a certain aspect or time frame?

A: I decided to focus on the whole Mughal Period because no one really looks at the entire period. Also, my interest and research is on the late Mughal Period and I wanted to include it in this exhibition and the British Library has an extensive collection covering the entire period.

Q: How many works are on display? What is their provenance?

A: There are circa two-hundred works on display. Most of them are from the British Library Collection, the rest are from institutions and museums’ collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the British Museum (London), the Royal Asiatic Society (London), the Bodleian Library (Oxford), the India Office Library Collection (London) and the Royal Collection (Windsor).

Q: What are the highlights of the exhibition? What is the most significant work for you?

A: There are many highlights of the exhibition [which you can enjoy in the slideshow at the end of the interview] so it is quite difficult to choose a few. Personally I really like “A Panorama of  Delhi by Mazhar ‘Ali Khan”. It is an impressive five meter long painting showing the Delhi panorama drawn from the view point of the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort. Also, the playful “Squirrels in a Plane Tree” is one of my favourite works.

A Panorama of Delhi by Mazhar 'Ali Khan. Image Credit: © The British Library Board

A Panorama of Delhi by Mazhar ‘Ali Khan. Image Credit: © The British Library Board

Squirrels in a plane tree. Image Credit: © The British Library Board

Squirrels in a plane tree. Image Credit: © The British Library Board

Q: At the beginning of the year the Ashmolean Museum presented ‘Visions of Mughal India: The collection of Howard Hodgkin’, and the Fondazione Roma Museo is currently showing: ‘Akbar: The Great Emperor of India’. Now the British Library is hosting ‘Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire’. It is evident that there is a great interest in Mughal India. What is your opinion on this?

A: The interest in Mughal art and culture has been constant. It is one of the most celebrated periods of Indian history. However the last exhibition dedicated to the entire Mughal Period dates 1982 and was held at the Victoria and Albert Museum: ‘The Indian Heritage: Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule’. So we wanted to remind people of our collection of Mughal miniatures and show these fine works of art.

Q: To whom is this exhibition directed? How many visitors are you expecting? How has the response been so far?

A: Traditionally, British Library exhibitions attract traditional museum visitors. However we have had a quite diverse audience so far, many art and primary school students came to see the exhibition. The response has been very positive, we had very positive reviews from newspapers, art magazines  and the exhibition is listed as one of top exhibitions at the moment in London. And we are definitely meeting our target with an average of 360 visitors per day.

Q: What is the main message behind this exhibition?

A: I wanted to showcase the wonderful collection the British Library has and that people don’t know about and also celebrate some the greatest patrons of Indian art and architecture that created some of finest artworks which still witness their grandeur. Also since now the interest seems to be more on modern and contemporary Indian art I wanted to bring the Mughals back under the spot light.

Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire is definitely a must see if you are in London. The exhibition will make you experience traditional Mughal life during your visit and educate you through superb works of art.

More information on the exhibition can be found on the British Library website. Below you can enjoy a slideshow of highlights from the exhibition.

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Dr. Malini Roy is the Curator of Visual Arts at the British Library. Her field of research focuses on later Mughal painting and Company paintings produced during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in the provinces of Awadh and Bengal as well as at the Mughal capital of Delhi.


Highlights from the Exhibition Akbar: The Great Emperor of India

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares a few notes from her visit to the Mughal exhibition in Rome

London: Last week we posted about the exhibition, Akbar: The Great Emperor of India. I had the opportunity to visit this exhibition, and I wanted to share few thoughts and images from the show.

Even though Italians are well known for being very proud of their cultural and artistic heritage, this time I felt a great effort has been put in curating the present exhibition and especially in introducing Indian culture and history to Italian audiences.

The space hosting the show has been transformed in order to resemble the structure of a traditional Indian building. Jalis and Islamic arches are used to divide one room from the other, and Indian music and scents complete the atmosphere and help visitors immerse themselves in a new and fascinating art and culture.

The exhibition mostly includes miniatures, textiles and jewellery from important international private collections and museums such as the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the National Museum in New Delhi.

Hopefully this show will trigger a deeper interest for Indian art and culture in Italy as well.

Below you can enjoy a slideshow of images from the exhibition.

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