The National Gallery of Modern Art in India celebrates its 65th Foundation Day this year. In honour of this momentous milestone, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bengaluru (Karnataka, India) has curated an in-house exhibition, ‘Itihaas‘ (meaning History) which displays works by 26 tremendously talented, renowned Indian artists, including Devi Prasad Roy Choudhury, Ramkinkar Baij, Dhanraj Bhagat, Sudhir Khastgir, Amarnath Sehgal, amongst many others.
The exhibition focuses on taking the viewer through the history of the National Gallery of Modern Art, first established in the Jaipur House, New Delhi on 29th March, 1954, and opens with ‘When Winter Comes’ by Devi Prasad Roy Choudhury, a sculpture which acts as a testament to the hard work associated with physical labour; depicted through the intricate details of the human form.
As we walk through the many rooms of the gallery, we see paintings, sketches, etchings, and sculptures created by renowned names from the rich history of Indian Art. Some powerful works on display that resonated with me were Sudhir Khastgir’s ‘Hunger’ and Amarnath Sehgal’s ‘Cries Unheard’, both depictions of physical and emotional struggle, desperation, and dilemma.
Amidst the plethora of significant works, there were two aspects to the exhibit I could not overlook.
Firstly, the unconscious bias towards works that propagated the concept of the male gaze. Some examples such as the stone sculpture ‘Toilet’ by Shankho Choudhuri, ‘Standing Woman’ by Dhanraj Bhagat, a bronze work ‘Toilet’ by G C Bhatt, ‘Picnic’ by Ramkinker Baij, ‘Figure’ by P A Mangudkar, ‘Fisher Woman’ by I B Gajjar, ‘After Bath’ by D P Roy Choudhury; while all structurally and artistically works of great beauty, finesse, and mastery spoke also to the lesser-discussed history or itihaas of the depiction of women in arts, literature, and cinema.
Secondly, the representation of women artists within the exhibit were few and far between, on display a handful of beautiful sculptural works such as Shirin Jal Virjee’s ‘Win Min Than’, and Uma Siddhanta’s ‘Of Mortality an Eternity’.
Overall, the exhibition has been curated to beautifully portray the Gallery’s journey so far; and despite any shortcomings, promises to only make the adventure ahead so much more meaningful and beautiful.
The exhibit is on display till the 29th of July 2019, so if you’re in or around Bengaluru, I encourage you to soak in the Itihaas of one of the most prominent art institutions of India.