London Art Reviews

Magazine of art press and reviews from London

India Festival 2015 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

David Franchi – Thursday, 26th February 2015.

Houndstooth sari by Abraham and Thakore, Hyderabad 2011 Photograph courtesy of Abraham Thakore

Houndstooth sari by Abraham and Thakore, Hyderabad 2011 Photograph courtesy of Abraham Thakore © V&A Museum, London

This autumn the India Festival 2015 will be inaugurated, at the V&A Museum, London. It will explore the past and the present of the abundant and diverse culture of India, with a series of exhibitions, displays, events and digital initiatives.

The India Festival 2015 will highlight the 25th anniversary of the opening of the V&A Museum’s Nehru Gallery. It is also 25 years since the launch of the Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections (NTICVA), which encourages the study, conservation and display of art and cultural legacy of India.

The V&A Museum has one of the greatest collections of South Asian art in the world. It is particularly renowned for its Mughal court arts, textiles, paintings and sculpture.

The Nehru Gallery was launched in November 1990 to give a suggestive location to the Museum’s important collection.

The Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections (NTICVA) was set up in India. It was established because the V&A Museum wanted to make its collection, and those of other UK institutions, more available to scholars from India, through assignment of grants and awards. The Trust has bestowed nearly 500 awards in total and created a vital network of linkages between scholars and professionals in the two countries.

The main events of the India Festival 2015 will be: The Fabric of India; Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection; Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1854-1860; and a display of Warli Paintings.

The highlight of the India Festival will be The Fabric of India (3 October 2015 – 10 January 2016). It will be the first exhibition to fully explore the incomparably rich world of handmade textiles from India. From the earliest known Indian textile fragments to contemporary fashion, this exhibition will illustrate the technical mastery and creativity of Indian textiles. Celebrating the variety, virtuosity and continuous innovation of India’s textile traditions, The Fabric of India will present approximately 200 objects made by hand that illustrate the skills, variety and adaptability of Indian textile makers, including previously unseen treasures, ranging from the earliest known Indian textile fragments to contemporary fashion.

The major exhibition will be Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection (21 November 2015 – 28 March 2016).

Pendant brooch set with diamonds and rubies 2011 by Bhagat Mumbai India © V&A Museum London

Pendant brooch set with diamonds and rubies 2011 by Bhagat Mumbai India © V&A Museum London

This exhibition will present around 100 spectacular objects from or inspired by the jewellery traditions of the Indian subcontinent. The objects are drawn from the recently-formed Al Thani collection, notable for the quality and size of its precious stones, both unmounted and set in jewellery. It reflects India’s position over many centuries as an international market for precious stones. It will showcase magnificent precious stones of the kind collected by Mughal Emperors in the 17th century and exquisite objects used in royal ceremonies. It will reveal the influence of India on jewellery made by leading European houses in the early 20th century and display contemporary pieces with an Indian theme made by modern masters.

“Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1854-1860” (24 June – 11 October 2015), will be a display of some of the earliest and most striking views of the landscape and architecture of India and Burma, by a pioneering British photographer. This exhibition is collaboration between the V&A, who acquired Tripe’s works in the 1860s, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Additionally, there will be a display of “Warli Paintings” at the V&A Museum of Childhood. It is a tribal form of art originating from the Thane region, north of Mumbai. It has had little exposure in the West. It is developed in collaboration with A Fine Line.

Moreover, a digital exhibition created in partnership with Darbar, a South Asian classical music organisation, and the Horniman Museum in London. It will display 19th-century musical instruments from the V&A’s collection juxtaposed with footage of leading contemporary musicians playing similar instruments of more modern date, enriched by interviews with the musicians and other experts. A number of the 19th-century instruments will also be installed within the Nehru Gallery, complimented by live performances in the Museum.

Besides, a broad and varied programme of debates and lectures will be organised, including the annual Benjamin Zucker lecture on Mughal Art.

Furthermore, it is planned a lively programme of educational events for adults, children and families comprising talks, performances, courses, screenings, storytelling and special events. A cultural festival focussed around Diwali is planned for October half term (24 October – 1 November).

The festival will also mark the culmination of an online cataloguing project, funded by the Parasol Foundation Trust, which has resulted in full catalogue entries and new photography of 8,500 paintings, textiles and hardstones being available on the V&A’s Search the Collections database.

The India Festival 2015 will open at the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London, from June 2015 until January 2016.

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