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Barbican announces first major survey of pioneering Indian art charting the country’s transformations between 1975-1998

Gieve Patel, Off Lamington Road, 1982-86 © Gieve Patel. Courtesy Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

Gieve Patel, Off Lamington Road, 1982-86 © Gieve Patel. Courtesy Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

In the autumn of 2024, the Barbican will present The Imaginary Institution of India: Art 1975-1998, the world’s first major exhibition of Indian art to explore and chart a period of significant cultural and political change in the country. Organised in partnership with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, this significant group show will feature over 25 artists and nearly 150 works from across a range of media, including many that will be shown in the UK for the first time. 

The declaration of the State of Emergency by Indira Gandhi in 1975 and the Pokhran Nuclear Tests in 1998 serve as bookends for a time when artists combined social observation with individual expression and innovation. They addressed issues relating to gender and sexuality, communal politics, urbanisation and changing class structures, and engaged with indigenous and vernacular modes of expression. Spanning painting, sculpture, photography, installation, and film, the exhibition will offer a unique view of this shifting socio-political landscape while exploring key practices within Indian art during the late 20th century. 

Participating artists include Jyoti Bhatt, Rameshwar Broota, Sheba Chhachhi, Sheela Gowda, Rummana Hussain, Bhupen Khakhar, Nalini Malani, Meera Mukherjee, Madhvi Parekh, Navjot, Gieve Patel, Sudhir Patwardhan, Himmat Shah, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Nilima Sheikh, Arpita Singh, Vivan Sundaram, J. Swaminathan, Jangarh Singh Shyam, Savi Sawarkar, N.N. Rimzon and more.

The Imaginary Institution of India: Art 1975-1998 will be accompanied by an integral film programme in Barbican Cinemas which will respond to the themes of the exhibition. This collaboration with Barbican Cinema reinforces the Centre’s commitment to cross-disciplinary programming.

Shanay Jhaveri, Head of Visual Arts at the Barbican, said:The Imaginary Institution of India: Art 1975-1998 is a show that looks back to a vital period of bold artistic production from India. Through inspiring and moving artworks, it affirms that in a truly democratic country people and strangers speak to one another, live next to one another, relate to each other on numerous levels, from the exuberantly sexual to the defiantly political.” 

Kiran Nadar, Founder & Chairperson, KNMA, said: The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), in its ongoing partnership with the Barbican presents the second exhibition focused on bringing visibility and critical attention to the practice of Indian and South Asian artists through selected seminal works highlighting social, political, and artistic transformations in India from 1975 to 1998. We are delighted to have loaned a substantial number of artworks to the exhibition that energise the theme, taking viewers through a spectrum of materials, media, and content.”

The Imaginary Institution of India: Art 1975-1998 completes the Barbican’s 2024 visual arts programme, forming a season which looks across borders exploring intimacy and queer desire, contemplating and confronting resistance, solidarity and protest, and dwelling on the universal joy of children at play, alongside extraordinary new commissions from international artists transforming Barbican’s public spaces and architecture.

Full Barbican Visual Arts 2024 programme
Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art 
Barbican Art Gallery 
13 February – 26 May 2024

Soufiane Ababri: Their mouths were full of bumblebees but it was me who was pollinated 
The Curve
13 March – 30 June 2024

Ibrahim Mahama: Purple Hibiscus 
Barbican Lakeside 
10 April – 18 August 2024 

Francis Alÿs
Barbican Art Gallery 
27 June – 1 September 2024

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum 
The Curve
18 September 2024 – 5 January 2025

The Imaginary Institution of India: Art 1975-1998
Barbican Art Gallery
5 October 2024 – 5 January 2025

Further information and images can be found here.