Part of the on-going Festival of India in Thailand, which began in March and runs until early may, the Forms of Devotion art exhibition celebrates strong Indo-Thai links, and the occasion of HRH Princess Sirindhorn’s 60th Birthday Anniversary. LEKHA SHANKAR discovers more from the exhibition’s chief curator, respected Indian art writer Sushma Bahl MBE.
How did the Forms of Devotion exhibition come about?
The exhibition in Thailand is actually derived from a mega project for the famed Museum of Sacred Art (MOSA) in Belgium, where nearly 3000 Indian works of sacred art have been acquired for display in a new wing of the museum. Some of those works will be exhibited in Bangkok. MOSA has a large collection of sacred Indian art, including folk, tribal and contemporary work. It has two galleries – a main branch near Brussels, and another near Florence. A new building is now being designed, for which its Director has commissioned hundreds of new works by over 250 Indian artists, these make up the Forms of Devotion exhibition.
Can you describe the theme behind the exhibition?
Forms of Devotion speaks for plural cultures and unity in diversity – ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam’, which means ‘The world as a family.’ Spiritual, sacred and secular, the art collection engages with representations of icons and ideas in myth, folklore, and popular culture, in diverse forms, faiths, genres, and ideologies.
Why did you choose this theme?
Given the current world scenario, and the interest of the producer and MOSA, it seemed appropriate to focus on spirituality in multi-cultural societies, across faiths, genres, media and modes, and on a shared platform.
Is this a travelling art exhibition?
Part of the collection, 350 works by 150 artists, will have been exhibited at the National Academy of Art in New Delhi in late March. For the Festival of India in Thailand, 50 works by twenty artists will be on display in Bangkok. This is the first overseas destination for the exhibition. After that, there are plans for it to travel to the Far East, Europe, and the Americas, before it goes to its final destination at MOSA.
How special is this event for Thailand?
It is very special, because of the thrust of the theme, the strong Indo-Thai links, and because it celebrates the occasion of HRH Princess Sirindhorn’s 60th Birthday Anniversary.
Works by which Indian artists will be exhibited in Bangkok?
Anjolie Ela Menon, Satish Gupta, Shuvaprasanna, SH Raza, and Seem Kohli are a few of the big names. Artist Satish Gupta will also give a demonstration of ‘live’ drawing at the exhibition opening.
Which mediums are covered in the exhibition?
The full gamut… there are paintings, drawings, sculpture, installations, video, and project-based as well as conceptual art works.
How long have you been working on the exhibition?
Nearly three years, with my colleague Archana Sapra and the Director of MOSA, Martin Gurvich, both of whom will be attending the opening of the exhibition. The selection of the art works involved visiting many of the artists across India, studying their pieces and commissioning new ones, in order to ensure the collection resonated well with the theme of the exhibition.
What are the other dimensions of the Forms of Devotion exhibition?
A richly illustrated two-volume book will be released, featuring nearly a thousand recently created works, with a selection of seminal essays by eminent scholars that reflect on the diversity and depth of Indian art in the sacred genre. A 50-minute film is also being made, by internationally acclaimed film-maker Goutam Ghose. The film journeys into the lives of eight artists who share their stories about what it means to make devotional art work. We’ll be making a 15-minute ‘short’ of the film for the exhibition in Bangkok. We are looking forward very much to our visit to Thailand.
Forms of Devotion takes place at the Exhibition Centre, Art & Culture Building, Chulalongkorn University, from April 28- May 10. Visit festivalofindiainthailand.com or formsofdevotion.org for more information.