Art News & Views


The previous issue of Art news and views focused on the Antiquities and the Art Treasures Act of 1972which is currently under reconsideration at various levels and on some of the museums that house our traditional art treasures. The theme is continued on a different key in the present issue. Along with ancient art objects the works of nine modern artists are currently on the national art treasures list, this issue is primarily devoted to them.

Clearly, more than their antiquity or even aesthetic value it is their symbolic importance to the nation and its history that is considered while drawing up such lists. They are seen as constituting the national identity or as upholding values that are important to the nation, and thus emblematic of national aspirations. The nine artists who make the Indian list for instance do not subscribe to a common aesthetic value but they do collectively reflect the values and aspirations that shaped our recent history and by honouring them the nation reiterates its own founding values.

Shared history and culture are two factors that unite a people and make a nation out of them. Over a hundred years ago such a conjoining was employed by several artists to conjure the idea and vision of a nation and to galvanize Indians torn from their past by colonial intervention into a nationalist force. Some of the artists in our National Treasures list played a part in this historical process. But as an emerging modern nation it was also important to connect the people with the present and the world at large as much as with the past. Other artists in our national treasures list nurtured this aspiration. These were two contesting needs of the founding moments of an ancient people reinventing themselves as a modern nation.

But it was not patently bipolar as this suggests. There are many levels of nuances inscribed into this list and includes several shades of reconciliation. Thus we have in this list Ravi Varma who harked back to the puranas for his themes but also reached out to colonial art for his style, Abanindranath who was a declared nationalist but found sustenance in pan-Asian arts, Nandalal who looked to the past for nurture but addressed the needs of the present, Jamini Roy who linked the modern high art with the popular and folk, Sailoz who linked the local with modern western, Sher-gil who was trained in the west but discovered parallels to modernist styles in tradition, Gaganendranth who began from a broadly nationalist milieu and turned more inwards and embraced originality as he progressed, Roerich who though born Russian endorsed the cultural wealth and value of India, and Rabindranath who spearheaded national resurgence in literature but turned to the west to find himself as an artist.

The essays on the nine artists look at their careers and positions and do not necessarily see them as part of an evolving national project and understandably so because they did not always consciously plan or envisage playing such a role but readers considering them cumulatively and as part of the national treasures list will not fail to notice the patterns that show up as individual artists are appropriated and transformed into emblems of a nation.


R. Siva Kumar  


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art etc. news & views is a monthly magazine published from India in order to promote art and culture. It intends to raise awareness about art all around India and the world. The magazine covers art exhibitions, auction highlights, market trends, art happenings besides Antique, Collectibles, Fashion, Jewellery, Vintage, Furniture, Film, Music and Culture.