“Your revolutionary spirit will bring you many troubles. But go on fighting. The future is always with those who struggle for self-expression and ideals.” — Dr. Herman Goetz of Baroda Museum to F.N. Souza, 1045
“Just over seven decades after the declaration of India’s independence in 1947 and the emergence of a modern art movement in India, Asia Society presents a landmark exhibition of more than 80 works by members of the Progressive Artists’ Group, which formed in Bombay, now known as Mumbai, in the aftermath of independence. The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India examines the founding ideology of the Progressives and explores the ways in which artists from different social, cultural, and religious backgrounds found common cause at a time of massive political and social upheaval.
Though the group disbanded in 1956, the ideas and discussions of its members continued to animate and give visual expression to India’s modern identity, with many of the Group’s artists creating their most iconic works after this period. Works in the exhibition—primarily oil paintings from the 1940s to 1990s—underscore how these artists gave visual form to the idea of India as secular, diverse, international, and united. Like their counterparts in the West, India’s modern masters mined multiple sources of inspiration including the subcontinent and Asia, as well as the wider world. They forged their own distinctive styles that were international in outlook while resonating with Indian sensibilities.” — Asia Society Museum
“The works in this exhibition reflect the diversity of Asian modernities, which are not a mirror of the Euro-American experience,” says Boon Hui Tan. “Art was also a way for the Progressive Artists’ Group to validate and celebrate a new secular republic that emerged from a rich, multi-religious tradition in ways that remain relevant today. Asia Society is pleased to present the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of the Progressives undertaken in the United States in recent decades.”
“The Progressives’ Artist Group have come to be seen as the ‘quintessential Indian Moderns,’” notes Zehra Jumabhoy. “They came from all walks of life: rich, poor, Dalits, Muslims, Brahmins, Roman Catholics. They genuinely embodied Indian Prime Minister Nehru’s dream of unity in diversity and his version of an ‘Indian secularism’ that was multi-religious and inclusive. Given the political climate in both India and the U.S. today, I think this principle of tolerance – part and parcel of the Group’s DNA – is vital to rekindle.”
The exhibition is organized by guest curator Dr. Zehra Jumabhoy, Associate Lecturer, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London and Boon Hui Tan, Vice President for Global Arts and Cultural Programs and Director of Asia Society Museum in New York.
Images courtesy Asia Society Museum.