The Archive: Myth & Reality: Aspects of Modern Indian Art (1982)

Myth & Reality: Aspects of Modern Indian Art was held at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford from 27 June to 8 August 1982.

During David Elliott’s directorship, the Museum of Modern Art became renowned for the geographical diversity of the art it displayed (‘looking for inspiration in the most unexpected areas. From Japan to Czechoslovakia, from Poland to Mexico, from East Africa to Scandinavia,’ as a promotional poster from the early 1990s declared) and it did so unusually early by the standards of the western art world. One of the earliest signals of this new direction was 1982’s season dedicated to contemporary India, collectively titled India: Myth and Reality.

Aspects of Modern Indian Art was the centrepiece of five exhibitions, which in turn coincided with the enormously ambitious nine-month Festival of India staged in London the same year. Unlike the official Festival, however, which was a diplomatic collaboration between the governments of Margaret Thatcher and Indira Ghandi, MOMA’s programming was the result of a unique collaboration between Elliott, celebrated Indian theatre director Ebrahim Alkazi, and British art dealer Victor Musgrave.

Aspects was an unapologetic attempt to counter perceptions of Indian art as provincial or derivative, showcasing modern painting and sculpture from a range of leading practitioners. Recent pieces by young artists like Nalini Malani and Anish Kapoor were juxtaposed with established postwar figures including Francis Newton Souza and M. F. Husain, who met with visitors while creating new paintings in the galleries during the course of the exhibition.

Written by Hilary Floe, Associate Curator, Modern Art Oxford.

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