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'Epic Tales from Ancient India' opens at the San Diego Museum of Art
Aniruddha is abducted by Usha’s handmaiden, Nepal, India, ca. 1800. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. The San Diego Museum of Art; Edwin Binney 3rd Collection. 1990.172.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- The San Diego Museum of Art presents more than 90 works of art from its world-renowned Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Indian paintings in an exhibition titled Epic Tales from Ancient India: Paintings from The San Diego Museum of Art. On view June 9, 2018 through Sept. 3, 2018, this exhibition represents the major narratives, regions and styles of South Asian art from the 16th through the 19th centuries, and provides the tools for reading and understanding Indian painting.

Epic Tales from Ancient India introduces viewers to the world of South Asian paintings and their original narrative context by explaining the classics of literature that the works illustrate. The exhibition features four sections arranged by literary category. The stories include the Bhagavata Purana, a Sanskrit text about the Hindu god Vishnu and his different incarnations; the Ramayana, recounting the adventures of Prince Rama of Ayodhya and his wife Sita; the Ragamala, verses illustrating music played at particular times of day or season; and works of Persian literature, including the Shahnama, a poem about the legendary kings of Iran. The exhibition also includes an interactive performance space to bring the narratives to life through hands-on workshops, musical performances, dance, educational storytelling and more.

The Museum has engaged Sabiha Al Khemir, Ph.D., to be the senior advisor for Epic Tales from Ancient India. An internationally known authority on Islamic art, Al Khemir has curated exhibitions in major museums around the world. She was the founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, and for five years served as the first senior advisor for Islamic art at the Dallas Museum of Art.

“Sabiha Al Khemir is a distinguished scholar of Islamic art and widely celebrated for her work on bridging cultural divides. It is a great privilege to welcome her to the Museum as the senior advisor for Epic Tales from Ancient India,” said Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director of The San Diego Museum of Art. “Our Binney Collection is an international treasure, and with the addition of Sabiha, we hope this exhibition will spur universal dialogue about the significance of South Asian art.”

The San Diego Museum of Art’s Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Indian paintings was assembled by Edwin Binney 3rd (1925–1986), an heir to the Crayola fortune. It consists of more than 1,400 works of art created during the 12th through 19th centuries at the Mughal, Deccani, Rajasthani and Pahari courts. The collection came to the museum in 1990, and is considered one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of South Asian paintings outside of India.

Developed by The San Diego Museum of Art and its former associate curator of Southern Asian and Islamic art, Marika Sardar, Epic Tales from Ancient India previously toured at the Princeton University Art Museum in Princeton, N.J. from November 12, 2016 to February 5, 2017, and the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin from July 9, 2017 to October 1, 2017.

Exhibitions from the Binney Collection have previously been on display in prestigious institutions around the world, including the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City, and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Paintings from the collection have also been shown in many major exhibitions of Indian art at institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Musée Guimet in Paris.

Epic Tales from Ancient India includes a 150-page catalogue featuring essays on book production in South Asia and the history of illustrating each of the texts in the exhibition.

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