Journey to the West

By Zhang Zihan Source:Global Times Published: 2012-6-26 20:00:04


A visitor admires No Title by Indian artist Sudarshan Shetty. Photo: Zhang Zihan/GT
A visitor admires No Title by Indian artist Sudarshan Shetty. Photo: Zhang Zihan/GT

It's been 1,400 years since legendary monk and scholar Xuan Zang returned from India to introduce Buddhist scriptures to China. However, few Chinese today know much about Indian culture, particularly its art, despite both countries being neighbors and the world's two most populous nations.

However, Beijingers eager to learn more about the sub-continental country's artistic spirit can now experience modern Indian art at the exhibition "Indian Highway," which opened at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) on June 24.

Organized by the UCCA in collaboration with Serpentine Gallery in London and Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, "Indian Highway" showcases artworks from over 30 of India's most internationally acclaimed artists including Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Tejal Shah, Sudarshan Shetty, Amar Kanwar, Jitish Kallat, Nikhil Chopra and Dayanita Singh.

The artworks include paintings, photographs, videos and installations, and hold a mirror to many facets of life shared by India and China, such as pollution, urbanization, religion, gender and class.

The exhibition's "highway" theme stems from the importance of roads in a constantly evolving nation. It also represents the "information superhighway," better known as the Internet, which is universally regarded as being at the core of India's prosperity by linking it with the world.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director of Serpentine Gallery, said the theme of the highway symbolizes the "connection between cities," as well as the "link between rural and urban communities."

At the east hall of the UCCA is Subodh Gupta's Take Off Your Shoes and Wash Your Hands - a 27-meter-long installation incorporating stainless steel kitchenware. It offers a satirical look at the intricacies of modernity and urbanization.

Another artwork that embraces the exhibition's theme is Jitish Kallat's Aquasaurus. Fusing resin, paint and steel, it is displayed at the entrance of the UCCA and boasts the skeleton framework of a tank. Standing out like an eye-catching scar, it represents the chaotic nature of traffic in Mumbai although no doubt resonates with the daily battle Beijing motorists face on the capital's roads.

The exhibition has received a predominantly warm reception from Chinese visitors, many whom are intrigued by the cultural similarities shared by India and China. Chen Yunhai, a 25-year-old art student and visitor to the exhibition, admitted it was his first time observing Indian art up close.

"Although I'm an art major, what I previously knew about Indian art had been learnt from textbooks. Observing these artworks provides a unique window into another great culture," he said.

"Indian Highway" is the largest Indian art exhibition to come to China in recent years, although more such exhibitions could follow given the enthusiastic response from local visitors.

Liu Qingfu, a 41-year-old insurance customer service manager, said he's looking forward to seeing more exhibitions on Indian art.

"As two of world's largest developing countries, China shares many things in common with India. I can see from these artworks that Indians and Chinese share common concerns," said Liu.

When: Jun 24-Aug 26

Where: UCCA, 798 Art Zone, 2-4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang district

Admission: 10 yuan (free Thursdays)

Contact: 5780-0200

Posted in: ARTS, Metro Beijing

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