The exhibition consists of a thematic display of around 200 meticulously chosen artworks that brings to you a portion of the collection that Air India used to redefine air travel in its own ‘maharaja’ style,” says Nazneen Banu, Director – NGMA…reports Sukant Deepak
The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Ministry of Culture, will present ‘Maharaja’s Treasure: Select works of art from the famed Air India collection-an exhibition that opens on April 27 and continues till July 2 at the Nation Gallery of Modern Art in Fort, Mumbai.
Over the period of eighty years, Air India put together an impressive art collection to showcase and celebrate Indian art and culture across the globe. This collection comprises paintings and sculptures by famous artists such as V. S. Gaitonde, B Prabha, M. F. Husain, G. R. Santosh, K. H. Ara, Pilloo Pochkhanawala, Raghav Kaneria, to name a few, traditional paintings such as Phad and Pichwai paintings of Rajasthan, Kalamkaris from Andhra Pradesh, Thanjavur gilded and glass paintings to an exquisite array of textiles, jewellery, and decorative art spread across the subcontinent. It was officially decided that this collection will be handed over to the Ministry of Culture and is to be housed at the National Gallery of Modern Art for posterity. The exhibition will be inaugurated in the presence of Union Minister of Culture, Tourism and DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region), G. Kishan Reddy.
“It gives me immense pleasure to launch the first exhibition on the Air India collection here at NGMA. This is the first of many to celebrate the iconic collection which was a pioneer in promoting our heritage across the globe. The exhibition consists of a thematic display of around 200 meticulously chosen artworks that brings to you a portion of the collection that Air India used to redefine air travel in its own ‘maharaja’ style,” says Nazneen Banu, Director – NGMA.
The exhibition begins with a glimpse of a few iconic works from the collection by masters such as K. H. Ara, V. S. Gaitonde, N. S. Bendre, G. R. Santosh, Manu Parekh, B Prabha, M. F. Husain, Anjolie Ela Menon, and B Vithal. An untitled canvas by V. S. Gaitonde from 1970, stands prominent, evoking a serene mood through the warm hues spread across the canvas. The highlight of this section is the famous ashtray designed by surrealist Salvadore Dali which is in the form of a sea shell with a serpent coiled around its rim and supported by elephant heads which in reverse become swans. Proceeding to the next floor, brings to life, the various portrayals of women and their contributions to life and society.
Arpana Caur’s canvas depicting a woman with a blue crescent moon on her head is part of a larger composition titled, ‘Women Hold up Half the Sky’, showing women in construction sites, where the heavy vessel on her head takes the shape of the moon. Shanti Dave’s painting is an extension of the same theme. The section also dedicates a corner to the fisherwomen painted by B Prabha and A. A. Raiba.
Open window panes always generate a multitude of possibilities of imagination and a sense of freedom that lies on the horizon. This section highlights various vignettes showing landscapes laden with huts, buildings, birds, and people engaged in farming. Both the works of Anjolie Ela Menon mounted on window frames, titled ‘Nawab with pigeon’ depicts the little girl’s longing to break away from the patriarchy that holds her back inside the confines of age-old traditions represented by the figure of the Nawab and in the second work titled, ‘Lady with kite’ represents the little girl’s desire to experiment with the possibilities that exist outside.
Expressionism and abstract form take prominence on the next floor. The vibrant canvases of Achuthan Kudallur and Laxman Shrestha bring forth various shapes that do not confer to a particular identifiable object but take one’s mind on a journey to infinite thoughts. The section proceeds to more fluid forms of the ‘Kalpavriksha’, the tree of life, flanked by Hindu deities, Ganesh and Brahmaby S. G. Vasudev. The second half of this section is dedicated to landscapes that climax with the formidable mountains of Serbjeet Singh.