2 India galleries to open at Museum of Fine Arts

Washington: Reflecting the increasing interest in the rich Indian arts and culture, the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston will open two India related galleries later this month.

While one will celebrate rare sculptural works from India and neighbouring countries (South Asia) and Southeast Asia, the other will showcase rotations of the rich painting traditions of India, Korea, the Himalayas, and Persia beginning with an important collection of Indian works in the exhibition Gems of Rajput Painting.

The two new galleries will reflect a broad range of cultures from Iran to the west and Indonesia to the east, and from the Himalayas to the north and Sri Lanka to the south reinforcing the global nature of the MFA`s encyclopedic collection, said MFA Boston in a statement.

Highlights include important Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain works, such as a rare 5th-century painted fragment featuring Buddha`s half-brother, Nanda, from the caves in Ajanta, a UNESCO World Heritage site in central India the only known work to have left Ajanta and an elaborately carved 11th-century sculpture of the elephant-headed Hindu god of good fortune, Ganesh.

Opening on December 15, some 120 works in the South Asian and Southeast Asian Sculpture Gallery will highlight the artistic traditions of India and the surrounding South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as Southeast Asia, which includes Indonesia, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam.

In addition, the gallery will emphasise the important cultural exchange that took place between the two geographic regions during the course of two millennia. Many of the objects on view have recently been conserved and will be displayed in new cases and on new mounts to enhance their presentation.

"This gallery presents South and Southeast Asian art from a new angle, one that previously hasn?t been explored at the MFA," said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund director of the MFA.

"It combines objects from across a vast region, illuminating the long history of artistic exchange that connected communities on both sides of the Indian Ocean. Today we constantly hear people talking about staying connected to one another. In the new installation, we`ll see an earlier age of connections, expressed through art," Rogers said.

Gems of Rajput Painting, on view from December 10, 2011, through September 3, 2012, draws from the Museum`s holdings of some 1,200 Indian paintings and drawings ranging in date from the 12th to the 21st centuries.

This specific type of painting was commissioned during the 16th to 19th centuries by rulers (Rajputs or "sons of kings") who shared a common elite culture centered on Hindu worship, Sanskrit poetry, and the fierce pride of warrior clans.

The 35 paintings and manuscript illustrations included in the exhibition represent the height of the artistic traditions developed at workshops associated with the many Rajput courts in Rajasthan, Central India, and the foothills of the Himalayas.

"Rajput painting is one of the great traditions of Indian art, and yet for unfamiliar viewers, the exaggerated bodies, incredibly bold colors, and use of multiple perspectives can be dizzying. Thematic groupings in this exhibition are designed to give visitors a way into the material, illuminating the conventions Rajput artists followed and played with in their work," said Laura Weinstein, the MFA`s Ananda Coomaraswamy Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art.