Modern & Contemporary Art

The modern and contemporary holdings include a wide cross-section of art in India, in recent history. Tracing several styles and art movements, it is home to works by artists such as Jamini Roy, Bhupen Khakhar, Jyoti Bhatt, Mrinalini Mukherjee, Ravinder Reddy, Ravi Verma, Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Binod Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinkar Baij, M.F. Husain, J Swaminathan, V.S. Gaitonde, K.G. Subramanian, Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat, Mithu Sen, Riyas Komu and others.

The turn of the last century was a period of great change in India; the end of colonialism, the heralding of the new nation-state, the rise of technology and industrialisation, and somewhere within that landscape the foray into modernism in the arts. The beginning of this century has been no less eventful for the arts, which globally as in India, has taken a turn towards the conceptual, interrogative, performative and multi-sensorial.

Covering nearly a century of art practice – from Ravi Varma’s paintings produced in the early 20th century to works by young contemporary artists in the 21st – this section of MAP’s collection provides an overview of the historical development of Indian art in this transformative period. Encompassing a variety of mediums – painting, sculpture, mixed media & installation art – it reflects the coming of age of Modern & Contemporary art in India. The works in the collection have been listed very broadly into five categories: early 20th century paintings by Raja Ravi Varma, and works from the same period from Bengal & Santiniketan, art from the 1940s-1960s, art from the 1970s-1990s and art from the 1990s to the present day.

The roots of Modern Indian art can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Indian artists adopted academic realism and oil painting, turning to art practices from outside the country for inspiration. The best known among these is Ravi Varma – a self taught artist who produced Indian content in the Western idiom. Combining European techniques of drawing, construction and composition with subject matter drawn from Indian mythology, he was popular both in his own time, as in time to come.

Contemporaneously, there were a group of artists in Bengal who rejected the mannered oil portraits of Ravi Varma and followed the principles of Indian miniature paintings. They predominantly derived their themes from Indian mythology and religion as well, but preferred the mediums of watercolour, tempera and Japanese wash techniques. The artists who adopted this mandate belong to the ‘Bengal School’ of painting and include artists like Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, D.P. Roy Choudhury, and A.K. Haldar to name a few. The last decade of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century saw the development of different strands of aesthetic discourse in Bengal by artists like Gaganendranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore, Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinker Baij, Jamini Roy and many more; much of which is represented in this section of MAP’s collection.

The mid 20th century witnessed a turning point in Indian Modernism with the emergence of artist groups in Bombay, Madras and  Calcutta. In post-independent India, the focus shifted from the nation to the individual, and artists preferred being part of global modernist contexts, rather than local ones. Representative of this ideology, the ‘Progressive Artists Group’ was formed in Bombay in 1947 and included members such as F. N. Souza, S. H. Raza, M. F. Husain, K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta. The MAP collection houses some stellar samples of the work of these artists, who realised local subject matter with an international vocabulary and aimed at establishing an Indian avant-garde.

The post 1970s in India, saw the emergence of the ‘narrative school’ in Baroda which brought both ‘people’ and ‘place’ to the centre stage. This period saw artists such as N. S. Bendre, Gulam Muhammaed Sheikh, Bhupen Khakhar, Vivan Sundaram and Jyoti Bhatt borrow from several artistic traditions, making them their own; as also a rising number of prominent women artists such as Anita Dube and Neelima Sheikh. With the coming of a new ‘global culture’, artists, no longer burdened by the past, were able to negotiate plural histories and reference multiple traditions with a great sense of ease. As their representatives in the collection demonstrate, the mediums they used were more eclectic and their visual language more layered.

The MAP collection also includes artists from the 1990s onwards, and contemporary producers such as N.S. Harsha, Arun Kumar, A. Balasubramanian, Jitish Kallat, Mithu Sen, Riyas Komu and Shantamani M.

A central agenda of this section of the collection is to also question the position of artists such as Manjit Bawa, Arpita Singh and Jagdish Swaminathan, whose practice and work don’t fall into these clearly defined traditions and discursive schools of thought.

View Collection

Related Artworks