previews

Prasanta Mukherjee pushing his work Aftermath, 2001, at the opening event for Art on the Move, Vithalbhai Patel House, New Delhi, March 18, 2001. From “The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India Since 1989.” Photo: Ram Rahman.

Chicago

“The Sahmat Collective: Art And Activism In India Since 1989”

Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago
5550 South Greenwood Avenue
February 14 - June 9

Curated by Ram Rahman and Jessica Moss

The Delhi-based Sahmat Collective, a forum for politically minded artists, writers, poets, musicians, and thespians, was formed in 1989, in the aftermath of the murder of Communist playwright Safdar Hashmi. Presenting roughly 170 items from the group’s two decades of activity—archival material, artworks, posters, and videos of performances—this sprawling exhibition will mix street and high culture (per the collective’s credo), thus challenging the predominantly showy reputation of contemporary Indian art, the markets for which tend to reward the spectacular. This survey will not only demonstrate the mark that Sahmat has made on the Indian cultural landscape since the nation’s economic liberalization in the early 1990s but also offer a chance to reexamine more broadly the tangled relationship between art, politics, and activism: Can this rocky ménage-à-trois still be put to good use? A theory-heavy catalogue, with essays by Marxist thinkers such as art historian Geeta Kapur, tackles such tough questions.