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Glasgow Museums Acquires Covid-19 Inspired Indian Art

By Gemma Batchelor, 10.02.2021
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Rajesh Chaitya Vangad, Warli, 2020. Ⓒ the Artist and image courtesy Glasgow Museums.

As part of its mission to collect in the time of Covid-19, Glasgow Museums is acquiring objects that record how people and communities have reacted to this past year, whether in Glasgow or further afield. For future audiences, this is the most reliable method of gaining insight and engaging with our current times.

Most recently, Glasgow Museums has acquired five new artworks, each in a distinct style of folk and tribal art from regions of India. In India, folk art is traditionally used as a means of spreading awareness within communities, and so these acquisitions are part of an important visual record of our global crisis from different cultural perspectives. 

Duncan Dornan, Head of Glasgow Museums, said “These five paintings are personal and honest yet speak to and for so many. Discussing issues we are now so familiar with, the work seems particularly appropriate at this time of a second national lockdown."

Apindra Swain, Odisha Pattachitra, 2020. Ⓒ the Artist and image courtesy Glasgow Museums.

Rajesh Chaitya Vangad, whose work is included in the acquisition, said of the creation of this piece: “I was listening to the news and thought I must depict this in the Warli style, it is such a significant moment in world history and I have to record it for posterity.” Vangad is one of India’s most well know folk artists, known for his Warli style paintings, a tradition native to the tribal people of the North Sahyadri Range in Maharashtra, India. 

Another painting is by Apindra Swain, in the Oriya pattachitra style, a form of art dating back to the 5th century. The overarching message of lockdown, ‘stay home’, is spelt out with human figures. Other works by Kalyan Joshi, Heeera Devi and Bahadur and Rupsona Chitrakar depict stories and messages that are all too familiar with readers across the world.

Together, the five artworks are an important addition to the museum’s World Cultures collection, which is made up of incredibly varied objects, including examples of 19th century colonial industry art as well as recent commissions of street and tribal art. When regulations allow, Glasgow Museums intends to showcase the new acquisitions as part of existing displays on South Asian art, in temporary exhibitions in the Fragile Art and Cultural Connections galleries at Kelvingrove and in proposed displays reflecting on the pandemic.