As one of the pioneers of modernism, KG Subramanyan’s contribution to the Indian art landscape remains unparalleled. Not only did he reinforce the nation’s post-independence identity through his art, but he also helped shape the evolution of one of India’s leading art institutions, Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda. Recently launched on the occasion of International Museum Day on May 18, 2022, the MAP digital exhibition, Bahurupee in the Panorama, pays homage to the artist’s expansive oeuvre over the decades, which has constantly varied in style, medium and expression.
In a unique collaboration with the Asia Art Archive in India (AAAI), Bahurupee in the Panorama is based on documentation from the digitized personal archives of KG Subramanyan, housed at AAAI, as well as works from the collection of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP). Speaking about the collaboration, Samira Bose, co-curator of the exhibition and coordinator of programs at AAAI said, “This exhibition was a significant collaboration where a digital archive partnered with a museum that has physical collections. For nine months, we approached KG Subramanyan’s life work and insights through our different perspectives and experiences, sharing personal stories and responses through a creative process that operated primarily online. We worked together but separately, between Bengaluru and New Delhi, through the pandemic waves, spending time on long Zoom calls and with tools like miro board. MAP strongly believes that collaborations such as these, which encourage the sharing of resources and materials for the benefit of the public, are integral to the growth of the museum community in India.
With the writings of KG Subramanyan as a starting point and guiding matrix, this exhibition forms poetic frameworks around his tools: intuition, curiosity and material knowledge. The exhibition explores two key ideas: the panorama of an introductory talk entitled “Art and Craft Panorama in India”, held at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford in 1998, and the figure of the bahurupeefrom a catalog text in 1994. Co-curator of the exhibition, Arshad Hakim explains, “With the exhibition, we want to highlight how creative processes, such as making and writing, are linked and mutually reinforcing, and we see them distinctly throughout KG Subramanyan’s practice. The exhibition takes up two key texts by KG Subramanyan and through the texts we trace how he built on the ideas of the panorama and the figure of the ‘Bahurupee’. Through these texts and the works, we realize that for Subramanyan, his inner world and the outer world are simultaneous and often blurred.
The exhibition studies the bahurupee – the imitator, the imitator – throughout the curatorial narrative in a non-linear way. Set the bahurupee as a polymorph, Subramanyan wrote “all works of art are bahurupee, where an object tries to play the role of another without totally giving up its identity”. After its playful imaginary strolls and the discovery of “a magic to be done” in the panorama, the exhibition leads the viewer into independent but convergent meanders through works, writings and keywords.
The exhibition also features a whole new look and navigation combining the artworks and writings, designed to reflect the mind or flow of thought of the artist. Vaishnavi Kambadur, co-curator of the exhibition and associate curator at MAP, says of the curatorial orientation, “Through Bahurupee in the Panorama, we wanted to showcase Subramanyan’s works with his writings and stories around him. One of the most important aspects is that viewers discover the magical qualities of his works by navigating through a panoramic mind map. We also urge viewers to spend time with images of terracotta reliefs, paintings, and excerpts from the museum and archives.
True to our goal of making the arts accessible to everyone, the exhibition includes audio recording as a key accessibility feature, providing a holistic experience for all viewers.
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