“I have his (Bhupen Khakar’s) small wood cut portrait of Gandhi next to my bed at Yale –– it’s as close as I have ever come to have an icon or idol in my daily life and neither the choice of the subject or of the artist were casual,” wrote Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art on December 13 last year, to Yale alumnus (1977-79) Ram Rahman, the Delhi-based photographer.
Deep personal feelings about contemporary India extended in Storr’s case to showcasing India and the Diaspora through contemporary Indian art at the inaugural show of the new art gallery at the Yale School of Art. The the gallery will open on January 26.
Storr, Dean of the prestigious Yale School of Art, participated in the first India Art Summit in August 2007. Disturbed by the organisers’ exclusion of MF Husain, for fear of right-wing reprisal, he made it a point to support the parallel show on Husain organised by NGO Sahmat.
Entitled Shifting Shapes — Unstable Signs, the Yale show includes 33 works by 14 Indian artists: Jaishri Abichandani, Brendan Fernandes, Chitra Ganesh, Gauri Gill, Shilpa Gupta, Abir Karmakar, Bhupen Khakhar, Bharti Kher, Riyas Komu, Nalini Malani, Ram Rahman, Raqs Media Collective, Tejal Shah and Vivan Sundaram.
History piquantly underpins this show, for Elihu Yale (1642-1721), the university’s first benefactor, made his fortune in Fort St George, Madras working for (and against) the East India Company.