The Asia Society kicked off its “Season of India,” with the opening of the exhibition “The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India,” on September 14th at at Manhattan’s Pierre New York hotel.
Embroidered saris swept the floors, precious stones glittered in the candlelight, and the color scheme—red, pink, and orange, with yellow orchids splashed here, purple orchids erupting there—brought to mind every picture-book daydream of the subcontinent.
The gala raised more than $1.3 million. Superstars streamed into the pre-dinner cocktail party, including Farida Khelfa, the brand ambassador of Schiaparelli; Susan Gutfreund, the society swan turned interior decorator; the Dowager Duchess of Marlborough, herself of Indian descent; and fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra.
“The cultural richness of India is overwhelming,” said His Highness Prince Tikka Raja Shatrujit Singh ji of Kapurthalathe affable royal, a luxury-goods advisor who would be the maharajah of Kapurthala if that realm still existed. “Every village has a historic site that deserves attention. Perhaps an event like this should be taken around the United States, anywhere that successful Indian immigrants are living, like Palo Alto, for instance. I think we could convince them to give back.”
The evening’s theme honored the opening of “The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India,” an Asia Society exhibition of more than 80 works of art by a group of Mumbai modern artists that sprang into prominence after India won its independence from the United Kingdom in 1947.
The exhibition showcases works by members of India’s Progressive Artists’ Group and examines their founding ideology, exploring ways in which artists from different social, cultural, and religious backgrounds found common cause in the wake of India’s independence.
Just over seven decades after the declaration of India’s independence in 1947 and the emergence of a modern art movement in India, Asia Society presents a landmark exhibition of works by members of the Progressive Artists’ Group, which formed in Bombay, now Mumbai, in the aftermath of independence. The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India will examine the founding ideology of the Progressives and explore the ways in which artists from different social, cultural, and religious backgrounds found common cause at a time of massive political and social upheaval.
Though the group disbanded in 1956, the movement continued to animate and give visual expression to India’s modern identity, with many of the group’s artists creating their most iconic works after this period. Works in the exhibition — primarily oil paintings from the 1940s to 1960s — underscore how these artists gave visual form to the idea of India as secular, heterogeneous, international, and united. Like their counterparts in the West, India’s modern masters mined multiple sources of inspiration while forging their own distinctive styles. Their consideration of the ways in which a new secular republic could emerge from a rich, multi-religious tradition continues to be relevant today.
The exhibition comprises important works from the Group’s core founders—K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, H. A. Gade, M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza, and F. N. Souza — as well as later members and those closely affiliated with the movement: V. S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee, and Mohan Samant.
The exhibition is organized by guest curator Dr. Zehra Jumabhoy, Associate Lecturer, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, and Boon Hui Tan, Director of Asia Society Museum. An illustrated catalogue featuring essays by leading scholars of Indian art and modern history will accompany the exhibition.
The Asia Society will also host a series of programs and special events on arts, culture, business, and policy focusing on India. The show, supported in part by the State Bank of India, opened on September 14 and runs through January 20, 2019.