Luhring Augustine, in association with Francesca Galloway, is pleased to present Court, Epic, Spirit: Indian Art 15th – 19th Century, a show of historical artworks from India opening on September 15 at Luhring Augustine Bushwick. The showcase marks the first time Luhring Augustine has partnered with the London-based gallery Francesca Galloway, internationally renowned in the field of Indian art. Anchoring the exhibition will be a late 18th – early 19th century Mughal-style pleasure pavilion façade, which previously figured in Luhring Augustine’s The Pleasure Pavilion: A series of installations that featured contemporary artists in dialogue with the structure. Court, Epic, Spirit will place the pavilion back in conversation with contemporaneous work such as textiles, paintings, and courtly objects. Grounding the works in their historical context, the selection will offer insights into artistic and cultural movements in India during this time.
The title of the exhibition refers to three key lenses through which to view the multi-faceted and extraordinarily inventive arts of India: court, epic, spirit. With these organizing principles as a guide, the exceptional and iconic works of art in the installation can be more fully considered and understood.
A fine and rare 17th century panel from a lavish royal tent will be among the exhibition’s featured objects. The panel is part of an important group thought to have been originally commissioned for the Muslim rulers of the Deccan, a region of central India. For both Rajput and Mughal rulers, tents were immensely important, especially to the latter given the nomadic lifestyle required to govern their vast empire.
Indian painting is above all a storytelling medium, created to illustrate epic texts. These narratives, and the paintings that accompanied, them were an integral aspect of the region’s cultural traditions throughout this period. A work of particular importance in the exhibition is a recently discovered 16th century painting from the early Imperial Mughal manuscript of the great epic, the Hamzanama (‘Story of Hamza’), one of the supreme achievements of Indian art. Commissioned by a young Emperor Akbar, it is the only known folio depicting this episode and represents a significant addition to the scholarship, not least because it was painted by Dasvant, a master artist in the Imperial atelier.
Also significant to the artistic output of the region were artworks focusing on the idea of worship – some depicting and enabling acts of revery, and some imbued with spiritual power. Hindu ragamala paintings depict verses that in turn evoke a mode of music. Through a very unusual group of 17th century ragamala paintings, most likely from the northern Deccan, the connection between sound, image, and spirit can be explored. The wild sense of colour and proportion coupled with stark architecture and sumptuous textiles, lend these paintings an assured and individual aesthetic. Another highlight of the show will be a masterpiece of painting on cloth illustrating Dana Lila, or Krishna playfully demanding a toll from the gopis. This type of Deccani pichhvai, a painted cotton temple cloth, is rare, with only a handful of examples in museum collections around the world.
Court, Epic, Spirit: Indian Art 15th – 19th Century will be on view through December 18, 2021 and will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.