An extensive exhibitions programme includes a strong focus on contemporary art. A series of curated exhibitions titled 'Engaging Traditions', invites artists to respond to the Museum’s collection, history and archives. These exhibitions are presented in the Kamalnayan Bajaj Special Exhibitions Gallery (KBG) in the main Museum building and may involve interventions into the vitrines holding the permanent collections. The Museum also hosts exhibitions in collaboration with galleries and other institutions in the Special Project Space (SPS) in the Museum Plaza. The Museum has successfully partnered with international museums and institutions to showcase contemporary artists and exhibitions which relate to the Museum’s permanent collection.
A series of curated exhibitions titled 'Engaging Traditions', invites artists to respond to the Museum’s collection, history and archives, addressing issues that speak directly to the traditions and issues that underlie the founding of the Museum, yet evoke the present by challenging orthodoxies and questioning assumptions. Several distinguished contemporary artists including Jitish Kallat, Sudarshan Shetty, L.N. Tallur and Ranjini Shettar have participated in this programme.
Through collaborations with international institutes, the Museum has hosted several exhibitions. Contemporary Photography and the Olympic Posters were presented from the V&A Museum, London. German artist Eberhard Havekost's works were presented in collaboration with the Dresden State Art Collections and the exhibition Social Fabric was showcased with INIVA (Institute of International Visual Arts) London, and the Goethe-Institut, Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai. The Museum collaborated with the Guggenheim Museum, New York, to present the BMW Guggenheim Lab in Mumbai,and the Ermenegildo Zegna group on the project ZegnArt Public in 2013. Most recently, the Museum hosted an acclaimed masterpiece of the Florentine Renaissance, Lorenzo Ghiberti’s (Italian, 1378-1455) The Gates of Paradise (1425-52), through a special collaboration with the Guild of the Dome Association, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-Institute, and the Museum of the Opera del Duomo. Folk Archive, a vibrant, visual account of contemporary popular British culture was held in collaboration with the British Council.
'Notes on Labour' presents Praneet Soi's work, created over periods of extensive engagement with artisans in Kolkata, Srinagar, and Guangzhou in China, which have never been exhibited before in India.
Soi's practice involves the creation of motifs that reflect his deep interest in different forms of cultural expression. This process is intuitive, where images are absorbed into the artist’s visual language over time. The process of image making, some of which has unfolded within the museum, assumes a conversation with the museum and the many different art practices reflected in its collection.
Notes on Labour is also a comment on multiplicity and polyphony. Values that become immediately evident when working with diverse groups of artists and artisans, which is visible across the breadth of this exhibition. Soi's interest in the processes of crafting extraordinary objects with the hand that requires huge skill and his empathy for the unsung artisans is an important theme in the exhibition. The artist has also engaged with the museum's archive of rare books including 'Journal of Indian Art and Industry' that features drawings and illustrations by Lockwood Kipling.
This exhibition is a continuation of the Museum's curatorial series, 'Engaging Traditions', which invites contemporary artists to interrogate the Museum's history, archives and collection.
The works presented in the show address "leaving the terrestrial" in different ways. Sumakshi Singh uses delicate thread and wire to create marine and botanical forms referencing nature, science, art, craft and fantasy. Giant suspended corals of metal and thread, fragile woven skeletons of algae, seaweed and jellyfish, pressed flowers, leaves and seeds floating in glass vitrines - seemingly embroidered on air, create an ethereal, natural history style display of an invented memory of nature.
A second installation invites viewers to walk through stop motion animations projected on transparent scrolls of hanging fabric and dried flowers representing a luminous garden of evolving life forms.