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Asia Society Museum Presents Landmark Exhibition Exploring Modernism in India in the Wake of Independence

The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India
On view 14 September 2018 – 20 January 2019

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 more than 80 works by members of the Progressive Artists’ Group, which formed in Bombay, now known as Mumbai, in the aftermath of independence. The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India examines the founding ideology of the Progressives and explores the ways in which artists from different social, cultural, and religious backgrounds found common cause at a time of massive political and social upheaval.  

M.F. Husain. Peasant Couple, 1950. Oil on canvas. Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. Photography by Walter Silver

Though the group disbanded in 1956, the ideas and discussions of its members 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 1990s—underscore how these artists gave visual form to the idea of India as secular, diverse, international, and united. Like their counterparts in the West, India’s modern masters mined multiple sources of inspiration including the subcontinent and Asia, as well as the wider world. They forged their own distinctive styles that were international in outlook while resonating with Indian sensibilities

The exhibition comprises important and visually arresting works from the Group’s core founders—KH Ara, SK Bakre, HA Gade, MF Husain, SH Raza, and FN Souza—as well as later members and those closely affiliated with the movement: VS Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee, and Mohan Samant. A selection of masterpieces of South Asian and East Asian art, including works from the Asia Society Museum Collection—Rajput miniatures, a sandstone figure, two Chola bronzes, and a Japanese landscape hanging scroll—is also included to show how the Progressives were inspired by South Asian and East Asian iconography and traditional forms in the creation of a new visual language for a new Indian nation.

The exhibition is organized by guest curator Dr Zehra Jumabhoy, Associate Lecturer, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London and Boon Hui Tan, Vice President for Global Arts and Cultural Programs and Director of Asia Society Museum in New York. A fully illustrated catalogue featuring essays by leading scholars of Indian art and modern history accompanies the exhibition.


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