Santiniketan: The Making of a Contextual Modernism

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Santiniketan: The Making of a Contextual Modernism was an exhibition curated by R. Siva Kumar at the National Gallery of Modern Art in 1997, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of India's Independence.

The exhibition, through bringing about a hundred works each of four modern Indian artists, namely Nandalal Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Ram Kinker Baij and Benode Behari Mukherjee on the centre stage, put the Santiniketan art movement into focus.

Kumar argues that the "Santiniketan artists did not believe that to be indigenous one has to be historicist either in theme or in style, and similarly to be modern one has to adopt a particular trans-national formal language or technique. Modernism was to them neither a style nor a form of internationalism. It was critical re-engagement with the foundational aspects of art necessitated by changes in one’s unique historical position".

The year 1997 bore witness to two parallel gestures of canon formation. On the one hand, the Baroda Group, a coalition whose original members included Vivan Sundaram, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, Bhupen Khakhar, and Nalini Malani—and which had left its mark on history in the form of the 1981 exhibition “Place for People”—was definitively historicized in 1997 with the publication of Contemporary Art in Baroda, an anthology of essays edited by Sheikh. On the other hand, the art historian Kumar’s exhibition and related publication, A Contextual Modernism, focused on the Santiniketan artists Rabindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee, and Ramkinkar Baij. Of the Santiniketan artists, Kumar observed that they “reviewed traditional antecedents in relation to the new avenues opened up by cross-cultural contacts. They also saw it as a historical imperative. Cultural insularity, they realized, had to give way to eclecticism and cultural impurity.”

According to Kumar "The Santiniketan artists were one of the first who consciously challenged this idea of modernism by opting out of both internationalist modernism and historicist indigenousness and tried to create a context sensitive modernism."

The literary critic Ranjit Hoskote while reviewing the works of contemporary artist Atul Dodiya writes, "The exposure to Santinketan, through a literary detour, opened Dodiya’s eyes to the historical circumstances of what Kumar has called a “contextual modernism” developed in eastern India in the 1930s and ’40s during the turbulent decades of the global Depression, the Gandhian liberation struggle, the Tagorean cultural renaissance and World War II."

This page was last edited on 9 April 2018, at 17:27.
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santiniketan_School_of_Art under CC BY-SA license.

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