'The Indian tribal art, a new field of exploration of contemporary art'
- Le Monde.
India's cultural richness makes it an endlessly fascinating country. India is known for its profusion of sacred art reaching back several thousand years, but we are less aware of the fact that over 60 million Indians come from the several hundred miscellaneous tribes with which the country is studded. The Indian government has done more than any other to preserve and give visibility to its tribal and popular art and since 1976 the Indian authorities have regularly accorded the great names in tribal art the same status as those in the modern art that has followed independence. These are India's 'other Masters', as the title of an exhibition held in New Delhi in 1998 put it. At the instigation of the great modern painter and guru Jagdish Swaminathan, the year 1982 saw the inauguration in the very heart of India of the Bharat Bhavan, the first museum to give an equal standing to contemporary artists from both dominant and minority cultures. The groundbreaking historical figures among these other masters, such as Jangarh Singh Shyam and Jivya Soma Mashe, who were present in the historic exhibition Magicians of the Earth
(Centre Pompidou, 1989), are enjoying a burgeoning international reputation. Their works are now on display in the great private collections, from the Devi Art Foundation to the Fondation Cartier, and the international press, ranging from the New York Times
to Le Monde
and including The Hindu
, have celebrated these artists' imaginative range. India astonishes once again through its extraordinary capacity simultaneously to provide a stage for all the best examples of contemporary art generated by its diverse cultures, whether they be dominant, minority, global, local, urban or rural. Like contemporary art, India is itself multi-faceted. One word, manifold cultures.