September 2007 News

Arts of Kashmir in New York next month

25 September 2007
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

Washington DC: Asia Society is holding a major exhibition from October to January to celebrate the artistic tradition of Kashmir. The society said in an announcement that this will be the first-ever major exhibition devoted to the rich artistic tradition of Kashmir. An important cultural bridge between the Indian subcontinent and regions to the west and east for over two millennia, the Kashmir valley has remained a vibrant hub of intellectual activity for its Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim populations. Multiple cultural influences have fostered a unique artistic environment of diverse aesthetics, witnessed in this landmark exhibition of 130 sumptuous objects of exemplary quality, dating from the 2nd to the 20th centuries, said the announcement. The Arts of Kashmir exhibition comprises works of Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic art, including sculpture, painting, and calligraphy loaned from collections in the US, Europe, and India. Many of the objects have never been seen outside India; in some cases they have never been exhibited anywhere. To provide a sense of the broad artistic contributions of the lush and beautiful region of Kashmir, the exhibition includes examples of stone and bronze sculptures and manuscript paintings, in addition to some fine examples of papier-mch, carpets, shawls, and embroidery for which Kashmir is renowned. The Arts of Kashmir exhibition aims to increase understanding of the historic artistic importance of the Kashmir Valley and the important role of the region in the development of intellectual life in South Asia, according to Asia Society Museum Director Melissa Chiu. Understanding Kashmiri cultural heritage is crucial for all of us in todays world, especially because it tends to be overly simplified in much of the current reportage on this disputed region. The Arts of Kashmir curator Dr Pratapaditya Pal, the worlds leading authority on the subject, says of the exhibition that it tells the story of generations of Kashmiris who excelled in producing art in a wide variety of media, not only the shawls that have become almost synonymous with Kashmir. The exhibition is organised chronologically, with works dating from Kashmirs beginnings as an important centre for Hindu and Buddhist practice and philosophical development. One of the earliest pieces in the exhibition is a 4th-century terra-cotta tile depicting crouching ascetics and birds from Harwan, a site associated with Buddhism. ] Most surviving sculptures from ancient Kashmir were created to serve a religious purpose, for both Hindu and Buddhist patrons. The subsequent arrival and spread of Islam, beginning with the early Sultanate period in the mid-14th century and reaching its height during the later Mughal era, witnessed an extraordinary patronage of arts, architecture, literature, and music. During the Mughal period of the 16th to 18th centuries, enchantment with the valleys beautiful landscape and royal usage of the area as a retreat fostered romantic images of the Kashmir valley that have endured for centuries. Mughal paintings from this period depict the rich courtly scenes and celebrations typical of the Mughal narrative tradition, while featuring distinctive local Kashmiri scenery and topographical features, according to Asia Society.


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