13 June 2015 - 23 August 2015, Heleneum, Lugano
On the 13th of June 2015, The Museum of Cultures in Lugano (MCL) inaugurates the exhibition, “Jamini Roy. From Tradition to Modernity. The Kumar Collection”. Scheduled to run until the 23rd of August, the exhibition is dedicated to the Bengali artist Jamini Roy, a recipient of the Padma Bhushan State Award from the Government of India in 1955, and regarded by international critics as the Indian “Matisse” for his works inspired by both traditional Indian art and the western avant-garde. The source of the exhibited works is the Kumar Collection which encompasses the artist's entire body of work, from his earliest sketches in the nineteen twenties to the final canvasses at the end of the nineteen sixties. The collection, considered to be the largest outside India, is for the first time the object of a curated art catalogue.
The collection is owned by Indian entrepreneur, marketing professor and collector, Nirmalya Kumar, who has been studying Jamini Roy for over a decade. He has bought these works and exhibited them to the public with the intent of safeguarding the distinctive features of an ancient tradition while contributing to the promotion of Indian contemporary art to both the experts and the international public. Curated by Caterina Corni with the support of Alessia Borellini, as part of “OrientArt” which sets out to show the relationship between contemporary Asian art and the ideological and cultural context in which it moves, the exhibition was conceived, planned and developed by the Museum of Cultures with the collaboration of various other scientific institutions and co-produced by Silvana Editoriale. The exhibition comprises seventy masterpieces (oil on canvas, tempera on paper, gouache on paper and linen) produced by the artist during the course of his career and accompanied by around 30 sculptures in wood from the XVII-XIX century depicting the protagonists of Hindu mythology and folklore, which have been sourced from the museum's own estate and other institutions. The exhibition itinerary is enriched by a selection of photographs from “India Minor”, the renowned photographic report in 1939 by Walter Bosshard (1892-1975), the photographer to whom we owe the invention and propagation of the “icon”, Mahatma Ghandi.
Jamini Roy was born on the 15th of April 1887, in Beliatore, a village in Bengal, 180 km from Calcutta. His destiny as an artist was sealed by his enrollment, at only 16 years of age, at the Government College of Art and Craft of Calcutta, under the guidance of the enlightened English art historian Binfield Havell (1861-1934) and Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951). The latter was a distinguished figure in the birth and development of the movement known as the Bengal School; a current uniting a profound awareness of the value of Indian culture with the artistic language of western art. In a climate of great creative ferment, Jamini Roy thus set out on a training path that would evolve into his own artistic form and distinctive style, leading him to become world famous and one of the most renowned and acclaimed artists in India. His early works, imbued as they are with the European avant-garde, interact in an ideological sense with the differences in artistic languages of ancient Indian art. They show a continuous evolution in terms of technique, distinguished by simplicity, essential lines and the use of materials and supporting structures that are more and more in harmony with nature. Jamini Roy died in Calcutta on 14th April 1972 at the age of 85.
Nirmalya Kumar (b. 1960) received his Bachelor of Commerce from Calcutta University, his MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his PhD in marketing from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. He is Member Group Executive Council of Tata Sons and is responsible for strategy at the group level and a visiting professor of marketing at the London Business School. He has previously taught at Harvard Business School, IMD (Switzerland) and Northwestern University (Kellogg School of Management). As an author he has written six books and published several articles in leading academic journals. He is a passionate supporter of the arts and charitable causes. He is the custodian of amongst the largest known private collection of paintings by Jamini Roy (1887-1972) and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). He has served on the South Asian Acquisition Committee of Tate Modern. In recognition of his patronage and promotion of South Asian Art, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, awarded him an Honorary Fellowship in 2012.