“Beyond Bollywood: 2000 Years of Dance in Art,” displays 120 objects from nine countries
A new exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco exploring the power of dance in India, South and Southeast Asia brings centuries-old movement to contemporary life through paintings sculpture, images and sounds on tablets.
Through July 10, 2023, the museum presents ”Beyond Bollywood: 2000 Years of Dance in Art” featuring more than 120 artworks borrowed from 20 of the finest museums and private collections in nine countries.
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“Dance is everywhere in the arts of the Indian cultural sphere: from the sacred dance of a god bringing the world into being to the elaborate choreography of modern Bollywood, every move has meaning,” notes a museum statement.
‘Beyond Bollywood’ immerses museumgoers in a multimedia showcase of dance, bringing a wide array of historic and contemporary sculpture, painting, textiles, jewelry, photographs, and more to vivid, passionate life.
Through encounters with artworks from countries including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia, Beyond Bollywood reveals the enduring capacity of dance to inspire a diverse range of artists and audiences alike, it says.
“We hope visitors will come away with a transformed notion of the importance and power of dance,” says co-curator Forrest McGill, “what it has meant in the past, and what it can mean in their own lives today.”
The exhibit follows a path through six themes, each with a distinctive signature artwork, then additional works expanding the scope. It’s “immersive,” to use the current exhibit cliché, but also logically informative.
The opening gallery, with the theme “Destruction and Creation,” is dominated by “Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of Dance,” a dynamic copper alloy figure from the Thanjavur district of India, dating from approximately 1125-1175.
The “Devotion” gallery that follows is dominated by the story of Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, living in a village, going into the forest to play his flute and attracting the cowherder women who rush to join him in dance. A video gives a modern interpretation by dancers in Bangalore.
“Subjugation,” or the conquest of negative forces, is explored in a stunning variety of artwork, including an18-inch-tall bronze from Thailand, dating from 1050-1100, “Dancing Hevajra surrounded by dancing yoginis.” In the same gallery is an exquisite gold-and-topaz armlet detailing Krishna overcoming the serpent Kaliya.
The final “Celebration” display is replete with wedding events as well as a video filling three gallery walls, depicting performers dancing in the back streets of Singapore. It’s an intriguing closer.
Through live dance performances (taking place within the main pavilion itself) and other associated dance events and programs, viewers can experience the magic of dance in person. These will go beyond Bollywood too, with performers of Indian, Balinese, Cambodian and Jazz styles.
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The exhibition’s design takes full advantage of the theatrical and technical capabilities of the museum’s new Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Pavilion, incorporating experiential elements from subtle musical backdrops to gallery-spanning video installations.
Beyond Bollywood is organized by the Asian Art Museum and the Cincinatti Art Museum and co-curated by Wattis Senior Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art Forrest McGill and Ainsley M. Cameron, curator of South Asian Art, Islamic Art and Antiquities at the Cincinnati Art Museum.
An exhibition catalog published by the Asian Art Museum includes essays by McGill, Cameron, Laura Weinstein, Padma Kaimal, and Esha Niyogi De.