New York: International media is buzzing with news of the Met Breuer museum opening this March and there's an Indian artist who's glowing in the spotlight - Nasreen Mohamedi. The 146 year old Met has put its hat in the ring and bringing on an daring mix of iconic and obscure pieces that are distinct from the other giants of New York’s cultural landscape as the clamor rises for more diversity in art reflective of a swiftly changing demographic.
The Met said the Nasreen Mohamedi exhibition is being made possible by Nita and Mukesh Ambani and the Reliance Foundation which is pushing for more Indian art on the global stage. The show is being co-hosted by the Queen Sofia Museum of Spain and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.
Mohamedi's paintings are all set to hog the spotlight at the inaugural raft of exhibitions at the Met Breuer. Taking the India and South Asia theme forward, resident artist, Vijay Iyer will occupy The Met Breuer's Lobby Gallery in March, performing jazz on piano and upending the concept of an art installation.
Mohamedi died in Mumbai ( then Bombay) in 1990 when she was just 53. Her art, although it spans just three decades is "a powerful odyssey" says Sheena Wagstaff, the celebrated boss of everything modern at the Met and former chief curator at Tate.
The Mohamedi exhibition from March to June 2016 at The Met Breuer is by far the most comprehensive exhibition of any Indian artist in the United States - 150 works will be on show in collaboration with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), New Delhi and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
"Two years ago, we had a Mohamedi exhibition at KNMA and it was after that that Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía got interested and then word went out to the Met. It's great that an Indian artist is being shown so prominently at a great museum like the Met. All credit to the Met and we are happy to have facilitated this," says Kiran Nadar.
Writing in Business Standard on channeling corporate wealth to create better platforms for Indian art, Kishore Singh says "what few know is that the exhibition is being supported by Nita and Mukesh Ambani and their Reliance Foundation."
"Opening to the public on 18 March, 2016, The Met Breuer will provide additional space for the public to explore the art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries through the global breadth and historical reach of the Met's unparalleled collection," says the Metropolitan Museum website.
Indian art and artists need much better platforms, both at home and abroad. Even a rough estimate shows that the United States has thousands of exhibition spaces compared with barely more than 20 in India.
With roughly half of the world under 20 years of age and so caught up with “experiences” museums are swiftly reinventing their images from ‘containers’ to a sand box people can play in.
For a generation absorbed so intensely with fascination of the ‘now’, Met Breuer seeks to inform connections between past and present.
The Reliance Foundation effort to tap into that void and bring Indian art to the world’s doorstep has made it to the The New York Times special on the Met Breuer opening.
Reliance Foundation’s first significant initiative in the arts in the U.S is bringing the “Gates of the Lord: The Tradition of Krishna Paintings,” the first major U.S. exhibit of the art of the Pushtimarg, a Hindu sect of western India, to the Art Institute of Chicago. Gates of the Lord features more than 100 objects celebrating Shrinathji, a form of Krishna.
Writing in the Financial Times on the Met Breuer, Ariella Budick quotes curator Sheena Wagstaff saying that "only the Met" can put new work in its proper timescale and geographical context.
"Instead of ripping the latest thing out of context and displaying it in a chic vacuum, she and her team have the erudition to trace themes across continents and millennia. She points to the inaugural exhibitions at the Breuer. One is Unfinished, which gathers 500 years’ worth of works whose big-name creators (Raphael, Titian, Jasper Johns) abandoned them partway through. The other is a retrospective of the Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi, whom some glib label-lover once called “the Indian Agnes Martin.
“She’s nothing like Agnes Martin!” Wagstaff sputters. “If you don’t know the history of colonialism, independence and post-partition, if you don’t know where Nasreen comes from, you have no idea what informs the volcanic change in her work. You don’t understand that this woman was extraordinarily radical,” says Wagstaff in FT.
Christian Viveros-Fauné in a story for artnet, says not just the Nasreen Mohamedi retrospective but what the Met Breuer is attempting in its entirety will altogether alter uptown Manhattan and indeed the art ecology of New York.
"Striking that sort of geographic and temporal balance, Wagstaff insists, will be the museum's mission where contemporary is involved—an effort to become fully manifest in the Met Breuer's inaugural raft of exhibitions. These include “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible" (March 18 through September 4) and the first US show of the late Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi (March 18 through June 5). “Unfinished" spans objects from the Renaissance to the present and includes works by Titian, Diego Velázquez, Cady Noland and Robert Gober.
"The Mohamedi—though it originates at Madrid's Reina Sofia Museum—presents the work of an artist unknown by the vast majority of auction house junkies weaned on a strict diet of blue-chip fodder," says artnet.
BlouinArtinfo speaks of Nasreen's simplicity, frugality, and detachment from the material world as the "hallmark of the artist who would take the abstraction through simple lines to an apogee not achieved by many in the genre, rendering her a truly international, world class artist, and an eternal inspiration to all those whose lives were touched by her genius."
For many artists, fame comes after death. Nasreen Mohamedi is no exception, she is finally getting her due.