Reliance Foundation provides landmark gift to The Met in New York

Oil company’s philanthropic arm Reliance Foundation donates gift to The Met in New York to Support Indian Art Programming.

The Indian philanthropic organisation founded by Nita and Mukesh Ambani has promised to fund a series of exhibitions that explore ancient, modern and contemporary art from India. Art Radar takes a look at the plans and the history of the collection of Indian art at The Met.

Isha Ambani with Mia Fineman, curator of the Raghubir Singh exhibit, at The Met. Image courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Isha Ambani with Mia Fineman, curator of the Raghubir Singh exhibit, at the Met. Image courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art collects and exhibits art made between 3000 BC to the present. Over the next few years, visitors to The Met will encounter an increasing number of exhibits focusing on India’s art due to a generous gift from the Mumbai-based Reliance Foundation. In a press statement, President and CEO of The Met, Daniel H Weiss, thanked the founders of the organisation, Nita and Mukesh Ambani, commenting:

This is an outstanding commitment that will have a direct impact on The Met and the exhibitions it presents to its millions of yearly visitors.

Raghubir Singh. 'Subhas Chandra Bose statue, Calcutta', 1986, C-Print. Image from 121 clicks © Raghubir Singh

Raghubir Singh, ‘Subhas Chandra Bose statue, Calcutta’, 1986, C-print. Photo: Art Blart. Image courtesy © Raghubir Singh.

The new fund will support a range of exhibitions examining the accomplishments and influence of the arts and artists of India from ancient times to the present. The series of exhibitions will traverse religious art from the 1st century BC to 17th century Mughal art to contemporary Indian sculpture and photography. Nita Ambani, Founder and Chairperson of Reliance Foundation, said:

India has a rich heritage of art and culture that can be traced back to the 3rd-4th century BC. At Reliance Foundation, it has been our ongoing mission to recognise and promote this valuable tradition by offering opportunities and platforms for Indian art locally in India and at various institutions around the globe.

The Reliance Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Reliance Industries Limited, a company that has been extracting and refining petroleum across India since its foundation in 1966. The company also participates in the retail, telecommunications, petrochemicals and textile industries.

Plate no. 973, "Cotton," from J. Forbes Watson, Collection of Specimens and Illustrations of the Textile Manufactures of India, London: The India Museum, 1873–1880. Image from Metropolitan Museum of Art website.

Plate no. 973, “Cotton”, from J. Forbes Watson, Collection of Specimens and Illustrations of the Textile Manufactures of India, London: The India Museum, 1873–1880. Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art website.

The Met has been collecting art from India since 1891. The Indian collection consists of some 1,250 works of art, 350 of which are on view in the nine Herbert and Florence Irving Galleries of South Asian Art, the most extensive of such displays outside of India. Indian art dating from 1500 to 1900 is represented by more than 1,300 pieces in all media in the Department of Islamic Art.

In 2014 The Met organised an exhibition entitled “An Industrial Museum: John Forbes Watson’s Indian Textile Collection” that displayed a collection of textile samples brought from India to Europe in the 1860s by the Scottish physician John Forbes Watson. The information regarding modes of textile production trafficked back to Britain by Watson was key in the development of the British colonial economy, which relied on taking over control of the global textile markets originally presided over by India since the 1750s.

Raghubir Singh, 'Marwaris bidding outside the Calcutta stock exchange, Calcutta', 1988, From the series Calcutta. The Home and the Street Color print, 40 x 50 cm. Image from Art Blart © Raghubir Singh.

Raghubir Singh, ‘Marwaris Bidding Outside the Calcutta Stock Exchange, Calcutta’, 1988, from the series “Calcutta. The Home and the Street”, colour print, 40 x 50 cm. Image from Art Blart. Image courtesy © Raghubir Singh.

The funds from Reliance Foundation will also be directed towards supporting exhibitions of contemporary and modern art from India. The first exhibition in the series to benefit from the funds is the current “Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs”, which opened at The Met on 11 October 2017. Raghubir Singh was a pioneer of colour street photography who worked and published prolifically from the late 1960s until his death in 1999. The exhibition traces the full trajectory of Singh’s career from his early work as a photojournalist in the late 1960s through his last unpublished projects of the late 1990s. The exhibition is open until 2 January 2018.

Rebecca Close

1903

Related Topics: Indian artists, photography, museum shows, market watch, business of art, events in New York

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