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Indian Highway: A 360° portrait of the sub-continent and its "miracle" at Maxxi
Hema Upadhyay, 8 feet x 12 feet. Courtesy Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai.

ROME.- Maxxi is hosting Indian Highway, the major touring group show coproduced with the Serpentine Gallery in London and the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo, organized in Rome by Maxxi Art and curated by Julia Peyton-Jones, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Gunnar B. Kvaran and Giulia Ferracci (Maxxi Art).

Indian Highway – as the emblematic title/metaphor for the country and its dizzying race towards the future suggests – describes the economic boom, the technological development, the social transformations, the conflicts and the cohabitation of a millenary civilisation and a developing society, identity and modernity, countryside and cities in exponential growth. A 360° portrait of the sub-continent and its “miracle”, interpreted through the penetrating, acute and profound eyes of 30 artists.

Shown for the first time at London’s Serpentine Gallery in 2009, Indian Highway has since been hosted by prestigious international institutions and now reaches Maxxi (from 22 September 2011 to 29 January 2012) before concluding its tour in New Delhi in 2013. For each stage the exhibition takes new form, with works conceived and exhibited for that occasion.

“Indian Highway at Maxxi", says Anna Mattirolo, director of Maxxi Art, “departs from the idea of the highway as a linking element for the migratory flows from the periphery to the city and testifies to the growing global centrality of the Indian civilization, from an artistic point of view too, from the 1990s through to the present day.”

Indian Highway at Maxxi

The exhibition can essentially be divided into three macro areas:
Indian Identity and Histories: investigates political, social and religious themes such as the war between India and Pakistan, the religious struggles, the transience of the national borders. Among the works on show: the large painting by Fida Husain (recently deceased, a protagonist on the Indian art scene for over 70 years, to whom the entire exhibition is dedicated) refers to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008. The video The Lightning Testimonies by Amar Kanwar recounts the war between India and Pakistan through the testimonies of raped women. The video I Love My India by Tejal Shah tackles the repression of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, while 100 Hand Drawn Maps of India by Shilpa Gupta reflects the sense of insecurity and the instability of the national borders. The disturbing installation by the same artist Untitled – Skewers features 185 lances looming from the ceiling and arousing a sense of fear.

Exploding metropolises: examines urban expansion and chaos and the abandonment of the rural areas. The symbol of the exhibition, the wallpaper installation Dream Villa 11 by Daynita Singh is virtually a luminous sign repeated for 80 metres on MAXXI’s external wall at the first floor level: it reproduces a contemporary metropolis from above, shrouded in a blue light, with the great highways like rivers of fire. Among the works on show: the sculpture Transit by Valay Shende, the huge truck in aluminium discs contrasting with Autosaurus Tripous, the skeleton of a traditional rickshaw in resin bones by Jitish Kallat, while the 27-metre-long installation by Subodh Gupta composed of pots and pans alludes to the workers’ lunch.

Contemporary Tradition: explores the revisiting of ancient forms of expression from Indian culture such as miniatures, ceramics and ink paintings. The site-specific installations Strands by N.S. Harsha and Growing by Hemali Bhuta are examples, as are the large enamelled panels by Nalini Malani that allude to the mythological stories.

Ayisha Abraham (London, 1963), Ravi Agarwal (New Delhi, 1958), Sarnath Banerjee (Calcutta, 1962), Hemali Bhuta (Mumbai, 1978), Nikhil Chopra (Calcutta, 1974), Desire Machine Collective (Sonal Jain, Shillong 1975 and Mriganka Madhukaillya, Jorhat 1978), Sheela Gowda (Bhadravat,1957), Sakshi Gupta (New Delhi, 1979), Shilpa Gupta (Mumbai, 1976); Subodh Gupta (Khagaul, Bihar, 1964); N.S. Harsha (Mysore, 1969), Abhishek Hazra (Calcutta, 1977), M.F. Husain (Pandharpur 1915 – London 2011), Jitish Kallat (Mumbai, 1974), Amar Kanwar (New Delhi, 1974), Bharti Kher (London, 1969), Bose Krishnamachari (Kerala, 1963), Nalini Malani (Karachi, 1946), Jagannath Panda (Bhubaneshwar, 1970 ), Prajakta Potnis (Mumbai, 1980), Raqs Media Collective (Jeebesh Bagchi, New Delhi 1965; Monica Narula, New Delhi 1969; Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Nuova Delhi 1968; Tejal Shah, Bhilai 1979 ), Valay Shende (Nagpur, 1980), Dayanita Singh (New Delhi, 1961), Sumakshi Singh (New Delhi, 1961 ), Kiran Subbaiah (Sidapur, 1971), Ashok Sukumaran e Shaina Anand (Ashok Sukumaran, Japan, 1974), Thukral & Tagra (Jiten Thukral, Jalandhar, 1976; Sumir Tagra, New Delhi, 1979), Hema Upadhyay (Baroda, 1972).

N.S. Harsha, Strands: visitors to Maxxi will be welcomed by a garland of 700 faces painted directly onto the concrete piazza using the traditional miniature technique. This is a site-specific installation conceived by N.S. Harsha and realised just a few days prior to the inauguration of the exhibition.

Desire Machine Collective, Trespassers will (not) be prosecuted: once inside the museum, in front of the great work by Anish Kapoor, Widow, visitors will be embraced by the interactive sound installation reproducing the sounds of the Law Kintang sacred forest.

Hemali Bhuta, Growing: on the first floor, a large work composed of suspended incenses will inundate the entire exhibition with the fragrances of India.

Sumaksi Singh, Circumference forming: in a corridor on the first floor, alongside the large lift, the artist who has recently returned from a trip to Assisi will recreate a highly evocative and deeply spiritual gothic arch .

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