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India's Rockefeller Artists at DAG Modern

November 15, 2017

India's Rockefeller Artists, DAG Modern gallery's most recent NY exhibition, opened in November to an enthusiastic audience.

The show opened on November 6 and features works by Indian visual artists who received grants from the Asian Cultural Council—and its predecessor, the JDR 3rd Fund—to travel to the United States. These fellowships, intending to build bridges of understanding and dialogue between the U.S. and India, in fact created an extensive network connecting some of India's most important modernists. This included associates of the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group, as well as other influential actors in the development of Indian contemporary art.

While both the JDR 3rd Fund and ACC grant programs formed a framework for DAG Moder's selection of artists for the exhibition, the catalyst, itself, was a name—Rockefeller. For over two decades, DAG Modern has built an expansive collection of India's modern and pre-modern art. Throughout this period, reflected Kishore Singh, curator of the exhibition, the Rockefeller name kept reemerging. This prompted DAG Modern to examine more closely the relationship between India's artists and Rockefeller philanthropic programs.

Clockwise from top: Vinod Dave (ACC 1983, 1984), Vibha Galhotra (ACC 2016), & Natvar Bhavsar (ACC 1965) on panel with curator, Kishore Singh; current grantees Aze Ong, JUJU U, & Bruce Quek; panelists with ACC Director of Programs, Cecily Cook.

Through archival research and interviews, they uncovered a deep history of Rockefeller-related cultural exchange dating back to 1950 when K.S. Kulkarni received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. In the decade following the JDR 3rd Fund's establishment in 1963, thirteen artists received grants to travel to the U.S. This opportunity for cultural exchange in the '60s and '70s was critical to India's artists. India, Mr. Singh reflects, was "a newly independent country hungry for information"—the JDR 3rd Fund grants provided artists the means to expand their horizons beyond more familiar European traditions and locales.

Today, the Asian Cultural Council continues the work of the JDR 3rd Fund supporting Indian artists from various disciplines. This depth of history was reflected in the inter-generational panel of artists led by Kishore Singh on India's Rockefeller Artists opening night: Natvar Bhavsar (ACC 1965), Vinod Dave (ACC 1983, 1984), and current grantee, Vibha Galhotra (ACC 2016). Discussing their grant experiences, they came to a consensus: they were dealing with a unique fellowship. "It doesn't demand anything back," said Ms. Galhotra, "you are not required to produce anything." Instead, she reflected, her fellowship allows her the time and space to look at her practice within the global framework.

Mr. Bhavsar mirrored this sentiment, recalling that he was able to travel the country, meet curators, visit galleries and major collections. "Coming to America gave me the freedom to work in a certain way," and that "was a gift of extraordinary proportion." This freedom, Mr. Dave added, was balanced with a healthy amount of guidance." I would meet with them [ACC] every 2-3 weeks and they would tell me what I should see...they would even help me with my personal issues" throughout his time in New York.

India's Rockefeller Artists is currently on view at DAG Modern (Fuller Building, Suite 708, 41 E 57th St, New York) until March 3, 2018. The exhibition also features a 456-page publication cataloguing the history of the artists, their works, and the impact of John D. Rockefeller 3rd. 

Clockwise from top left: DAG Modern panelists Vinod Dave, Vidha Galhotra, and Natvar Bhavsar; artist Haku Shah's son, Parthiv Shah, with ACC's Executive Director Miho Walsh and DAG Modern curator Kishore Singh; Vinod Dave with his artwork; Miho Walsh, Nicole Hsu and Tonia Hsu, and Lauren Cherubini, ACC's Director of Development.



Category: ACC News