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Chicago Art Institute revives its India link

Friday January 21, 2011 07:38:06 PM, Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS

New Delhi: The world famous Art Institute of Chicago, where celebrated Indian philosopher Swami Vivekananda delivered a historic address in 1896, is reviving its links with India in a big way.

"We have embarked on a mammoth project to exhibit royal art from Jaipur in Chicago in 2013. The institute has joined hands with the National Museum in Delhi and the royal family of Jaipur," its president James Cuno told IANS in the capital.

Under a formal American global exchange programme, Chicago and New Delhi are designated as "sister cities to facilitate collaborations and exchanges in art, culture, business and education", he recalled.

Cuno said: "The institute's curator of South Asian art, Madhuvanti Ghose, is organising an exhibition of Jaipur royal arts down the centuries with the support of the royal family and the National Museum.

"The exhibition, one of the biggest that the international community will ever see, will comprise miniatures, artefacts, sculptures, textiles and relics of the Jaipur royalty created by artists who were commissioned for the purpose.

"We will procure the art works from the Palace Museum in Jaipur, the Albert Museum in the city, private collections, the National Museum and from the Victoria Albert Museum in London."

Cuno added that the Art Institute of Chicago was also looking at a long-term exchange with the National Museum for collaborations and exhibitions of mutual benefits."

The institute has a "large South Asian and Indian collection of art and objects related to art".

"Every year, we send American art students on a four-week orientation programme to India so that they acquaint themselves with Indian art," he said.

Cuno addressed issues of identity crises in a post-colonial world and public references in art with critic Gita Kapoor, artists Homi Bhabha and Jitish Kallat at the India Art Summit 2011 in Delhi.

During his two-week stay in India, he plans to explore the possibility of new acquisitions, carrying forward the exchange initiatives and meeting Indian artists.

The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879, is one of the largest and most important encyclopaedic museums of the world. It is home to more than 300,000 fine art objects, spanning 5,000 years of creative exposition and is often considered the third largest museum in the US after the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.

The museum registers footfalls of 1.9 million annually, Cuno said.

In 2009, the museum inaugurated its modern wing. The 264,000-sq ft wing houses the museum's collection of 20th and 21st century art, architecture, design and photography.

Swami Vivekananda's legacy and documents of his world famous address at the World Parliament of Religions in 1896 are preserved at the museum's Fullerton Hall, a much revered destination for followers of Vivekananda's philosophy.

One of the Asian highlights at the museum is a public installation, "Public Notice 3" by Indian contemporary artist Jitish Kallat, which reconnects the philosophy of Vivekananda to contemporary art. It uses words from the scholar's address to convey the "liberal and inclusive nature of Hinduism", Cuno pointed out.

According to Cuno, the extraordinary quality and size of Indian art is astounding. "It is globally more recognised now than 10 years ago," he said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at








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