280909: Essl Museum: Chalo! India

Essl Museum: Chalo! India Ghandi’s fingers Despite announcements to the contrary there is no end to the current India-Hype: in the next couple of years, after exhibits in the Serpentine Gallery and the Kunsthaus Bern, the Centre Pompidou and the LACMA are also presenting art from India. In Austria, the Essl Museum is once again the pioneer - similar to the exhibitions of the Leipziger School and Chinese art: currently a grand exhibition of art from India is being shown. The discussion around these kinds of exhibitions always focuses on what would be “typical” for a certain region of the world; not completely free of clichés, the search for the allegedly cultural specific characteristics begins. At the Essl Museum – the exhibition was partly taken from the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo – one at first embraces the stereotype ideas: the exhibition-poster, a satirical self-dramatisation of Pushpamala N., the sperm-covered, exhausted elephant by Barti Kher, the abstract, gleaming circle of thousands of bindis (forehead decoration) and the walk-in shrines by Gulammodhammed Sheikh, who celebrates the subcontinent’s cultural hybridisation with figures from different religions, based on the Middle Age Mappa Mundi. But the cultural attributions are predominantly handled with more scepticism – except for Jagannth Panda’s magnificent peacock, who alludes to India’s “national bird”. On Ashim Purkayastha’ stamps, Mahatma Ghandi shows his middle finger, Pushpamala N. poses as the grinning Goddess of Lakshmi, and Tushar Joag’s memorial reproduction is positioned in Mumbai at the most unsuitable place one can think of. Others develop urban utopias, construct car-rickshaws made of artificial bones, and Indian bridal couples amalgamate with European-American icons of art and film history. The fact that the works were arranged according to specific topics can be seen as a measure against otherwise absolute arbitrariness. Nevertheless, on account of the pluralism of its positions, the exhibition remains to be a bit vague – but this is possibly not the worst approach when offering the “first overview” of an, in Europe, widely unknown artistic territory. By Nina Schedlmayer Essl Museum 3400 Klosterneuburg, an der Donau-Au 1, until 01.11.09 www.essl.museum

Essl Museum
3400 Klosterneuburg, An der Donau-Au 1
Tel: +43-2243-370 50 150
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