| Edge of Desire main exhibition | exhibitions


Asia Society and Museum


Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India focuses on contemporary Indian art of the past decade, a period marked by enormous social, cultural, and economic change that counted political violence and rapid economic growth brought about by liberalization and foreign investment among the most significant. These issues and others form the context for the works of the thirty-eight artists in this exhibition, co-organized by the Asia Society and the Art Gallery of Western Australia. The artists come from all around India, from the metropolises of Delhi and Mumbai to the rural regions of Kondagaon, and regional and local differences within this vast country are reflected in the diversity of the themes expressed as well as the selection of media and artistic practices. For example, the evolution of visual traditions in adivasi, or folk craft practices (Swarna Chitrakar's scrolls and Ganga Devi Bhatt’s paintings), is shown alongside works in international contemporary art media (Nalini Malani’s videos and Shilpa Gupta’s installations). By bringing together these streams of practice, this exhibition stands in contrast to previous shows that have sought to focus exclusively on the work of the more familiar international artists from urban centers.

Discussions held in Delhi nearly four years ago between leading artists, curators, and critics prompted this different curatorial approach. From the perspective of the organizers, it was imperative that the genesis of the exhibition be in India. As when any group comes together, divergent opinions were expressed. However, there was consensus on three issues: first, that the exhibition should present a different view of Indian art from ones staged during the previous five years in Europe; second, that it not only feature artists with well-established international careers; and third, that it seek out a new generation of artists and curatorial voices.

With this in mind, we enlisted Chaitanya Sambrani as curator. Chaitanya has come to prominence in the past few years with his critical writings on modern and contemporary Indian art. Although the discussions in India shaped aspects of the exhibition, Chaitanya's vision must be credited for its curatorial premise and the selection of artists. He has brought great insight and an enormous enthusiasm to this project. To assist Chaitanya, an advisory panel was established that included Kajri Jain and Ashish Rajadhyaksha. We are appreciative of their support and advice.

We would like to thank the artists in this exhibition for lending their works, many of which were created for the show. Private collectors have been equally generous, including Shumita and Arani Bose. Others also deserve special thanks: Estate of Rummana Hussain; Rajeev Lochan, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Saryu Doshi, National Gallery of Modern Art, Bombay; Peter Mueller; Anupam Poddar; Nitin Bhayana; Usha Mirchandani; Vikram Sardesai; Jamshyd Sethna; Naveen Kishore, The Seagull Foundation for the Arts; and David Szanton, Ethnic Arts Foundation. For their assistance with securing loans, we also thank Gallery Chemould and Sakshi Gallery.

Edge of Desire represents a decade-long emphasis on the presentation of contemporary Asian art at the Asia Society. As one of the first American museums to undertake a consistent program in this field, the Asia Society has presented groundbreaking exhibitions and works previously unseen in the United States. Exhibitions of note include Asia/America: Identities in Asian American Art (1994), Traditions/Tensions: Contemporary Art in Asia (1996); Inside Out: New Chinese Art (1998); and Conversations With Traditions: Shahzia Sikander and Nilima Sheikh (2001). Edge of Desire is part of a three-month long focus on contemporary India called India: The Future Is Now, comprising artist panels, business briefings, lectures, and other cultural events.

This is the first time the institution has worked collaboratively across its diverse programming groups—including the Policy and Business, Social Issues Programs, and External Affairs divisions as well as Cultural and Public Programs and the Museum—to produce a cohesive strategy for one season. The initiative would not have been possible without the leadership of Robert Radtke and his colleagues Judi Kilachand and Karen Karp. The success of a project like Edge of Desire is largely due to the dedication of the museum staff, and we would like to acknowledge Helen Abbott, Nancy Blume, Joshua Harris, Deanna Lee, Neil Liebman, Hannah Pritchard, Clare Savard, and Clayton Vogel. Sandhini Poddar and Murtaza Vali assisted with research for the catalogue. Perry Hu’s wonderful exhibition design for both New York locations, Asia Society and the Queens Museum of Art, deserves special mention. Our colleagues in Cultural and Public Programs also deserve thanks: Rachel Cooper, Linden Chubin, Nancy Bulalacao, Anne Kirkup, La Frances Hui, and Sèbastian Haizet; in addition to those in External Affairs: Carol Herring, Todd Galitz, Julie Lang, Jeannine Glazewski, and Lisa Shah. Lai Montesca designed the elegant printed materials for the Asia Society’s presentation, and Rymn Massand provided the handsome design for the catalogue, which was expertly edited by Vajra Kilgour.

The Art Gallery of Western Australia is in Perth, the only Australian capital city situated on the rim of the Indian Ocean, and Edge of Desire embodies the institution's commitment to the art and culture of the region. The Art Gallery has fostered the development of exchanges and dialogues in the region that have influenced the direction of the State Art Collection and its artistic and public programs. None of this would have been possible if the Gallery staff had not enthusiastically embraced this mission. Each staff member shares immense credit for his individual and collective care, resourcefulness, and professionalism. At the Art Gallery of Western Australia we would like to acknowledge Robert Cook, Corine van Hall, Natalie Beattie, Philip Burns, Lynne Hargreaves, Greg Woodward, Andrea Tenger, Robyn Walton, Tanja Coleman, Maria Canjuga, Maria Tagliaferri, and Vanessa Roth. The work of the installation crew showed an extraordinary perseverance to a technically demanding exhibition, successfully addressing the needs of the artists and our visitors.

In New York, we would like to acknowledge Tom Finkelpearl, Director of the Queens Museum of Art, who showed commitment to this project from an early stage, while Valerie Smith, David Dean, David Strauss, Jaishri Abhichandani, and Prerana Reddy also deserve special thanks. After the presentation of the exhibition in Perth and New York it will travel to Mexico, where it will be shown at the Tamayo Museum in Mexico City and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MARCO) in Monterrey. Thanks to the directors of these two museums, Ramiro Martínez Estrada and Nina Zambrano respectively.

In New York Edge of Desire and related programs are made possible with support from The Reliance Group, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, MAP Fund, Purnendu and Amita Chatterjee, Gita and Sonny Mehta, Arts International, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and Sir Dorabji Tata Trust. Additional support is provided by the Asia Society's India Fund, whose major donors include Rohit and Katharine Desai, Tara and Victor Menezes, Harish Raghavan and Ramaa Reddy Raghavan, Sribala Subramanian and Arvind Raghunathan, Lakshmi and Sandy Chandra, John P. and Jennifer Clay, Dr. Angela Anand Cobra, and Dr. Suryanarayan Anand.

The presentation of Edge of Desire at the Art Gallery of Western Australia was made possible through the generous support of the Australian High Commission India, the Government of Western Australia, 96FM, the Australia India Council, the Gordon Darling Foundation, and Aalto Colour; and principal partner Wesfarmers Arts, and annual sponsors The West Australian, Marketforce, Qantas, Channel 7 Perth, and Mirvac Hotels and Resorts.

Vishakha N. Desai
Asia Society
Alan R. Dodge
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Melissa Chiu
Director of the Museum
Asia Society Museum
Gary Dufour
Deputy Director
Art Gallery of Western Australia
all text & images © Asia Society and Museum, New York

INTRODUCTION | Edge of Desire main exhibition | exhibitions