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M.F. Husain: 
The Rooted Nomad

April 18–November 24, 2024

10am–6pm closed on Tuesday

MAGAZZINI DEL SALE N. 5
Dorsoduro, 262
30123 Venice
Italy

Photography by Parthiv Shah

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01 / About immersive exhibition

The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) presents details of The Rooted Nomad, a unique exhibition on India’s most iconic contemporary artist, M.F. Husain (1915–2011). Presented at the Magazzini del Sale in Venice beginning April 18 and running through November 2024, this dual-format independent project, part exhibition and part immersive, resonates with the 2024 Venice Biennale’s theme of “Foreigners Everywhere.”

The restless itinerant spirit of Husain, the breadth of experiences he gathered and the evocation of multiple journeys, forms the central core of the many constellations of his works presented here, making us dwell upon the ideas of mobility, migration, moving across borders and beyond fixed boundaries. The exhibition attempts to unpack expanded notions on the ‘yatra’ or journey both as a crux to civilizational ethos and artistic calling as well as a metaphor for transformation.

 

An early participation at the Venice Biennale in 1955, Husain was one of the first artists from India to present his works in Venice followed by him representing India at the Sao Paolo Biennale in 1971, alongside Pablo Picasso. Through the years, Husain articulated his syncretic vision of India as a richly layered cultural mosaic, both secular and sacred, unfolding in his kaleidoscopic imagery.
 

The exhibition, curated by Roobina Karode, Director and Chief Curator, KNMA and the curatorial team, is an intimate one that builds the narrative through his paintings, photographs, print, texts and poems leading viewers into an immersive experience designed by Visioni S.r.l., Rome—drawing on nearly 160 works by Husain from the KNMA Collection. Two years in the making, the complex production includes motion graphics, live action, 2D and 3D animation, choreography, and sound design, seamlessly blending together Husain’s versatile oeuvre to tell the complex story of this singular figure.

 
Visioni President Marco Generoso Realino said: “The beginning of the immersive exhibition is marked by a paper plane flying across the walls and floor. It brings us back to 1947 and India’s independence. Bespoke narrative elements juxtapose the artist’s life with his prolific art. Husain loved to illustrate history, both national and personal, weaving images and words that alluded to an emerging Indian nationalism. What becomes clear is Husain’s enthusiasm for the future, his deep appreciation for India as a cultural melting pot, the importance he placed on India’s history and early art forms, as well as his openness to embrace the world.” 
02 / About Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) 

Founded in 2010, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) is a pioneering private museum of modern and contemporary art in South Asia, with branches in New Delhi and Noida. The not-for-profit organization produces rigorous exhibitions, educational and public outreach programmes, and publications. KNMA emphasizes archival work, institutional collaborations, and support networks for artists and creative communities while extending its reach to diverse audiences. The Museum holds a growing collection of more than 14,000 artworks from India and South Asia, with a focus on the historical trajectories of 20th-century Indian art alongside the experimental practices of contemporary artists. Reimagining its upcoming campus to be a museum and a cultural center embracing both the visual and the performing arts, KNMA was established through the initiative of art collector and philanthropist Kiran Nadar and is supported by the Shiv Nadar Foundation.

The international exhibition programme of KNMA has brought forth the practices of many under-represented Indian artists, bringing them visibility and critical attention across the globe. These exhibitions have included Nasreen Mohamedi (2015–16), which emphasized fresh readings and interpretations, expanding the modernist discourse on Abstraction beyond the West. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, partnered with KNMA on the exhibition when it was showcased in New York and Madrid. Bhupen Khakhar (2016) at Tate Modern, London; Jayashree Chakravarty (2016–17) at Musée des Arts Asiatiques, Nice, and Musée Guimet, Paris; Nalini Malani (2017–2019) at Centre Pompidou, Paris, and Castello di Rivoli, Turin; Vivan Sundaram (2018) at Haus der Kunst, Munich, following the first retrospective of the artist’s work, organized by KNMA; and a major solo exhibition by Mithu Sen (2023) at The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA).

KNMA has also supported major site-specific installations of sculpture, partnering in 2022 with New York’s Public Art Fund to present Ancestor, an 18-foot painted bronze sculpture by Bharti Kher at Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast entrance to Central Park; in 2023 Whorled (Here After Here After), the first major public commission by Jitish Kallat at Somerset House, London, and Cloud songs on the Horizon, the first major exhibition by Ranjani Shettar, on view through April 2024, featuring five new, large-scale suspended sculptures across the entirety of the Barbican’s Conservatory space in London.

For the 58th International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia in 2019, the museum participated in presenting the Indian Pavilion, titled Our Time for a Future Caring, curated by Roobina Karode. The Indian Pavilion was organized by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, in collaboration with KNMA and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), with the National Gallery of Modern Art as the commissioning institution.

KNMA Chairperson and Founder Kiran Nadar said: “One of the driving missions of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art is to raise awareness about Indian and South Asian artists around the world and to make art accessible to diverse audiences. As the world turns its attention to Venice again, we are delighted to see the results of many years of planning come to fruition. This first-time 360-degree immersive experience created around an Indian artist who was known as a people’s painter, will be a prime attraction, unveiling the artist’s dream and desires through moving image and soundscapes. It is a labour of love for India’s most compelling modernist, who I admired greatly and with whom I enjoyed a long friendship.

KNMA Director and Chief Curator Roobina Karode said: “The vast expanse of India as one of the oldest civilisations in human history and a new born nation in 1947 with its independence from British Raj colonial rule, both unfolded obsessively in Husain’s art and his prolific oeuvre through the decades in his 95 years of active life. It is an honour to share his extraordinary vision in a wide range of media that he embraced, defying artistic hierarchies and misplaced perceptions about art as high and low or fine and popular.

03 / About M.F. Husain (1915–2011)

Maqbool Fida Husain was born on September 7, 1915. He is remembered as the most celebrated and internationally recognized Indian artist of the 20th century. His earthy bold colors and expressive brushwork became the quintessential style of Indian modernism. He was associated early on with the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, and much of his work was inspired by his vision of a new India following the partition of 1947. His themes, often depicted in series, would include Krishna, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the British Raj, as well as urban and rural life in India.

Husain was one of the first Indian artists whose works were exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1953 and 1955. His solo show in Prague in 1956 also marked the year he painted ‘Between the Spider and the Lamp’, which was exhibited at the Tokyo Biennale in 1959 and for which he was honored with the International Biennale Award. In the late 1960s, he painted the Mahabharata as a panoramic unfolding, which was displayed at the 1971 Sao Paulo Biennale where he, alongside Picasso, was the only special invitee.

His first experimental film, an instance of impressionist cinema set in Rajasthan, Through the Eyes of a Painter, won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1967. Accolades followed with the Government of India awarding him the prestigious Padma Shri in 1955 and later, in 1973 and 1991, the progressively more prestigious Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. Husain was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, India’s Upper House of Parliament, in 1986-92, during which he pictorially recorded its events, later published in 1994.

Weaving together religious, social, literary, and symbolic iconographies into a secular artistic register, Husain was obsessed with the richness, diversity, and ethos of India. An artist who was hardly confined to paint in his studio, he was a “people’s painter” who painted wherever and whenever the moment demanded. Over the years, Husain’s astronomical success and larger-than-life presence on the Indian art scene garnered both acclaim and controversy. The 1990s saw the commotion of religious extremism, as Husain faced a backlash for allegedly offending the religious sentiments of the majority community, which crested into a campaign of protests. Following threats to his life, Husain was forced to leave his beloved India in 2006. His later years were spent in self-imposed exile between Qatar and London, where he died in 2011.

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