CIMA is Twenty!
When CIMA started out in 1993, change was in the air, waiting to be caught. New artists and new art needed a new gallery with a new approach. Younger artists needed enlightened patronage and a contextual projection. New trends had to be anticipated, new vocabularies encouraged. So that artists could work without thinking primarily of saleable products. Besides, India’s folk and tribal art awaited urban recognition not as quaint examples of perplexing cultural systems before wide-eyed Westerners or Westernized Indians, but as an alternative vision-or multiple visions-inspired by local lore and customs, each operating within its own linguistic matrix.
Right from the beginning, CIMA had declared its agenda in the name Centre of International Modern Art. It wished to be global in its perspective even while focusing on modern Indian art. But before it was formally launched, a show titled Wounds had been organized against the backdrop of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which made its commitment to liberal values clear enough. In these 20 years the gallery has contributed, in large measure, to six distinct areas in taking contemporary Indian art forward.
From the point of Bengal art, CIMA’s endeavour to win recognition for itself in a scene dominated by Bombay and Delhi was no less important. Also to be recognized is the emphasis it has consistently laid on the curating of shows, bringing out well-produced catalogues with valuable writing by scholars. It is evident that CIMA wishes to live up to its name of being a centre of art rather than just a gallery, and looks upon art not as a viable diversion, or investment, but as a serious pursuit that deserves imagination, intellection and commitment.
But what perhaps remains a talking point were its two comprehensive shows of Indian art abroad and one which travelled in India. The one in London called Chamatkara, in 1996, which recorded huge turnouts and awakened a new interest in Indian art beyond the diaspora. The other was in Singapore in 1997 and was called Tryst With Destiny. The exhibition which is still considered to be a landmark, is Art of Bengal – Past and Present 150 years of Art in Bengal. This show introduced the idea of giving contemporary art in India, a historical context. It opened in Kolkata in 2001 and in the same year travelled to Mumbai. Art of Bengal documented 150 years of art, starting in the mid-19th century to 2001.
CIMA can, thus, celebrate its two eventful decades with satisfaction. The anniversary show, with a list of artists from Rabindranath Tagore to those who are generations younger, reflects the changing landscape of Indian art over almost a century.
Dates : Dec 13, 2013 - Jan 25, 2014
For enquiries : Animesh Dey [firstname.lastname@example.org]