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British Museum and HSBC Announce Indian Summer

LONDON.- The British Museum and HSBC today announce plans for Indian Summer, a season dedicated to Indian culture featuring a unique programme of exhibitions, installations, performances, lectures and film screenings. HSBC is the sponsor of the season that includes: Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur, an exhibition which provides a rare opportunity to view paintings of outstanding interest and variety that have never previously been seen in Europe: an India Landscape, a specially commissioned space presenting Indian biodiversity in the Museum’s forecourt in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: and a rich and varied public programme.

Launching the season British Museum Director, Neil MacGregor commented: “There is an enduring fascination with the rich diversity of the art and culture of India. Garden and Cosmos epitomises this diversity through the polarities expressed in the paintings, focusing on both the external courtly life of pleasure on the one hand and an internal life of devotion and speculation on the other. I am most grateful to HSBC for enabling us to present Indian Summer”.

Stephen Green, Group Chairman HSBC Holdings plc, said: “HSBC is the world’s local bank and the British Museum is recognised worldwide. We are both committed to the idea of Cultural Exchange - understanding life in different cultures and building international relationships. India is a major player in the world market and its cultural contribution here in the UK and around the world continues to grow. The Indian Summer season will provide a deep insight into the life, history and culture of this fascinating country.”

Garden and Cosmos will focus on the distinctive style of court painting which flourished in Jodhpur, in Rajasthan, during the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries. The exhibition will feature a loan of fifty-five works from the Mehrangarh Museum Trust in Jodhpur which has been set up by the present Maharaja, H.H. Gaj Singh II. These paintings have never been seen in Europe before and are of exceptional quality. The two elements of the title, ‘Garden’ and ‘Cosmos’ represent two distinct styles and functions over the period represented in the exhibition. ‘Garden’ presents paintings of palace life, many of them centred on the pleasures of the royal court and including vibrant illustrations of the great Indian epics, especially of the Ramayana. In ‘Cosmos’, we see paintings from the long reign of Man Singh (r.1803-43) which are remarkable as, in their subject matter, they turn away from the glowing exterior world of court life and instead address the interior world of philosophical speculation and the origin of the universe. The precise meaning of some of these paintings is unclear but the large fields of distinctive, brilliantly coloured wave patterns reminds the viewer that surrender to blocks of pulsating colour is not a 20th century European invention. Alongside this major loan from Jodhpur are two important paintings loaned from the National Museum in Delhi and two paintings from the British Museum’s own collection.

Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur is organised by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the Mehrangargh Museum Trust.

India Landscape
2 May – 28 September 2009 / British Museum Forecourt / Admission free
To complement the exhibition, the British Museum, is collaborating with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to create an Indian-themed landscape on the Museum’s west lawn. The landscape will present a section through the immensely diverse habitats of the Indian subcontinent, taking visitors on a journey from the mountainous environment of the Himalayas, through a temperate region and ending in a sub-tropical zone centred on a pool filled with lotus flowers. The landscape will highlight the significance of plant use in Indian culture – as food, medicine and in trade and the way plants such as chilli (native to South America) have travelled and become completely indigenised. Finally, the dramatic consequences of habitat destruction in the subcontinent will also be addressed. The landscape is the second in a series of five planned collaborations with Kew.

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