Venice is ‘Fida’ over MF Hussain as KNMA makes the presence of Indian Artists felt alongside Venice Biennale

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) has created an elaborate show entitled ‘The Rooted Nomad’ on Maqbool Fida Hussain’s work which includes both his physical works and a rich digital production – scheduled in Venice at a time when the coveted Venice Biennale is slated to begin.

Curated by KMNA Director and Chief Curator Roobina Karode, the exhibition celebrates his versatility as an artist, thinker and writer, juxtaposing his wooden toys, paintings, photographs, letters, snippets from his films, collages, letters and poetry that shaped his vision of India as a richly layered ‘cultural mosaic’.

Presented for free at the Magazzini del Sale in Dorsoduro in Venice from April through November 2024, the immersive exhibition, designed by Visioni Eccentriche, will coincide with the Venice Biennale and its theme of “Foreigners Everywhere.”

Though India is yet to get a pavilion in Venice Biennale, the presence of Indian artists and the industry this year has never been greater. Just two India pavilions have been staged in the Biennale’s 125-year history, one in 2011 and the second in 2019.

Powerful patrons and a Global South-dominated international exhibition ensure the nation’s artists are front though there is no Indian Pavilion.

Artists belonging to the Indian diaspora—the world’s largest—will also participate in a handful of national pavilions and official collateral events. One of the three artists representing Finland this year is the Patna-born Vidha Saumya, who is showing cross-stitched digital photographs. And Eva Koťátková’s Czech and Slovak pavilion about a dead giraffe is made in collaboration with Himali Singh Soin, who is based between New Delhi and London.

Asked why the KNMA embarked on such an ambitious exercise, founder Kiran Nadar states, “As a modernist and one of the founding members of the Progressive Artists’ Group, he was one of the pioneers of Indian art, but I felt he never got his due. This is my homage to an artist that I have very high regard for.”

Explaining the title of the Hussain’s show ‘Rooted Nomad’, runs in Venice till Nov 24, Karode says, “Husain’s life was all about journeys, whether it was the gullies of Nizamuddin, the busy streets of Mumbai, and later in Doha, Dubai and London (where he had to pay up for doodling on hotel napkins). “All of those travels come into his work in different ways and forms.”

Indians are also funding other national shows. This year’s British pavilion is partly sponsored by the London-based, Indian-born billionaire philanthropist and collector Aarti Lohia, the chairperson of the SP Lohia Foundation. This is the first time Lohia’s foundation has supported the Biennale;

Ms Kiran Nadar asserted, ” It is a real shame India hasn’t gotten our act together this Biennale. We are too big a country to not have a regular pavilion at Venice”. Indeed, at one stage, India was slated to have a national pavilion at this year’s edition, but this was quietly called off.”

Images by KNMA

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