Published: July 3, 2007
“Gateway Bombay,” opening July 14 in the Peabody Essex Museum’s (PEM) Herwitz Gallery, presents the work of 13 artists who are deeply connected to the city, which is today †60 years after India’s independence †a booming commercial and financial hub and a leading center of the art world.
The exhibition, which will remain on view through December 7, 2008, features major paintings, works on paper, photographs and a mixed-media installation created over the past four decades and as recently as 2006. The 29 works are drawn primarily from PEM’s Chester and Davida Herwitz collection of contemporary Indian art. The artists represented include Chirodeep Chaudhuri, Bal Chhabda, Atul Dodiya, M.F. Husain, Nalini Malani, Gieve Patel, Sudhir Patwardhan and Ketaki Sheth †most of whom live and work in Bombay.
Bombay became officially known as Mumbai in 1995, but both names are widely used. With a metro-area population of more than 18 million, Bombay/Mumbai is India’s most populous city, and is expected to be the world’s largest by 2020. This dramatic growth is due to the constant influx of people seeking opportunity in the nation’s commercial capital. The Gateway of India, which frames Bombay’s harbor on the Arabian Sea, was created as a monument to colonial rule. Today, it is a fixture in Bombay’s daily life, one of its most visible icons and a draw for tourists and citizens alike.
In the first two and a half months of the exhibition, Mumbai-based contemporary artist Bose Krishnamachari’s mixed-media installation “Ghost/Transmemoir” will be on view in the museum’s Atrium.
The 40-foot-long work, on loan from Aicon Gallery New York, includes 108 metal cans used by the city’s famous dabbawalla lunch delivery system (the word comes from dabba, a reference to a box containing a light meal, and walla, the person who delivers). The lunch boxes in Krishnamachari’s piece are mounted on iron scaffolding and contain LCD monitors that project interviews with a range of Mumbai residents †from street vendors to socialites, industrialists and intellectuals.
In Gieve Patel’s “Two Men with Handcart,” saturated tones of pink and orange create a dense urban backdrop against which two male figures are centered at the bottom of the canvas †laborers pausing for a moment in their work day, seemingly deep in conversation.
Sudhir Patwardhan’s “Pokharan” depicts a distressed site in transition, littered with haphazard construction. Chirodeep Chaudhuri’s black and white photographs remind viewers that India’s great urban metropolis is also a city on the sea.
Mumbai’s deep-water harbor, which handles some 40 percent of India’s maritime trade, is a popular gathering point for tourists visiting the 1,000-year-old cave temple at Elephanta Island or traveling from Mumbai to Goa. It also serves as a playground for residents seeking reprieve from the city’s congestion.
Among the events related to the “Gateway Bombay” exhibition is a daylong public program on July 21.
The Peabody Essex Museum is at East India Square. For information, 866-745-1876 or www.pem.org .
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