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4/27/2009 Houston—The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s collection of Indian art, which ranges across media and over two millennia, will have a permanent home at the museum beginning Saturday, May 16. The new Nidhika and Pershant Mehta Arts of India gallery will be the only space in Houston devoted to Indian arts and culture, and is the third in a series of five permanent Arts of Asia galleries planned for the museum and located in an Arts of Asia wing now in development on the first floor of the Caroline Wiess Law Building. The naming of the gallery in the Mehtas' honor recognizes their extraordinary $500,000 leadership gift to the museum. A series of public programs, including a Bollywood film festival, lectures, and activities for families, will take place this spring and summer as part of the Nidhika and Pershant Mehta Arts of India Gallery celebrations.

“The MFAH has always strived to be a place that reflects the city of Houston and its many communities,” said MFAH director Peter Marzio. “Through this major initiative to create a permanent home for the Arts of Asia, we believe we are moving that tradition into the future. The museum’s trustees are enormously grateful to the Indian communities here in Houston for the support and vision in making the gallery a reality, and extend special thanks to the Mehtas for their generous gift.”

“This gallery will be a great educational resource for Houstonians, providing many people with their first comprehensive look at India’s rich cultural history,”said MFAH trustee Prabha Bala. “Along with the dozens of members of the Arts of India support circle, I am very proud to have been a part of bringing our cultural legacy to our adopted home, the city of Houston.”

“The Nidhika and Pershant Mehta Arts of India gallery is an outstanding addition to the museum’s new Arts of Asia wing,” added Christine Starkman, MFAH curator of Asian art. “In an expanded permanent gallery, the museum is proud to showcase our splendid and cutting edge holdings of contemporary and ancient art from India. The collection will be installed side-by-side to reflect the rich history and continuity of image making in India. Transcending time, geographical and historical boundaries, the gallery will impart a sophisticated and ambitious aesthetic proposal that presents the complex and changing society of 21st century India.”

Approximately 100 artworks will be on view at any time in the new Nidhika and Pershant Mehta Arts of India gallery, representing diverse subject matter and media from India’s unique regions and historic eras. The design concepts reflected in the gallery will further convey the art and aesthetic of India, from the selection of color, to the material for the floor, walls and vitrines, to the configuration of the sculptures and columns in the space.

The historical context of the objects will be framed through the presentation of the great Empires of India. The educational didactics and labels will emphasize the global trade contacts of ancient and medieval India that still continues through today. The fluid wave of migration and invasion brought cosmopolitan cultural-aesthetic visions into India. Highlights of the gallery will include ancient objects such as the copper Harpoon, North-central India, c.1000 BC, which confirms evidence of trade with China and Mesopotamia. The arrival of Alexander the Great (356 BC -323 BC) into the Indian subcontinent in 326 BC, the success of the Mauryan Empire (322 -185 BC) in defeating and conquering the provincial rulers left by Alexander, the establishment and spread of Buddhism by King Ashoka (304 BC - 232 BC), and later the Kushan Empire (2nd - 3rd century AD) controlling the large territory ranging from the Aral Sea through areas that include present day Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan produced the extraordinary grey schist, 2nd and 3rd century A.D. Standing Bodhisattva, from ancient Gandhara ( now Pakistan). Then, the beautiful 6th-century, Gupta period sandstone sculpture depicting the Hindu goddess of wisdom and music, Sarasvati, comes from the Gupta Empire which flourished at the same time as the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) in China and Roman Byzantine Empire (330 1453 AD ). Two spectacular bronze sculptures from the Chola Dynasty (300 BC -1279 AD), a 13th century Shiva Nataraja and 11th century Parvati, reflect the height of the Chola rule and power between the 9th and 13th centuries. The Chola territories stretched from the islands of the Maldives to the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia. The lasting legacy of the Cholas was their patronage of Tamil literature and magnificent temple architectures in South India.

The rich and diverse genres of Indian painting are also represented, showcasing works from a number of different regions and depicting varied scenes, from the daily life of the Mughal court to depictions of tales from the ancient, epic books of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The paintings are culled from the courts in Udaipur, Bikaner, Jaipur, Basholi, and the Punjab Hills, all created in the aesthetic and tradition of their individual regions.

A great range of modern and contemporary works on view in the gallery explore the current art scene in India, which is informed by the political, economic, social, and physical landscape. On loan from a private collection (courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York) is a sculpture by Subodh Gupta. From the MFAH collection, works from established and emergent contemporary artists from India include photographs by Dayanita Singh (b. 1961) from the Allahabad (1999) and I Am as I Am series.

Within the gallery will also be an interactive multimedia space with timeline and videos. Children can enjoy a flat screen animation within this space, created by Pixar animator Sanjay Patel and featuring animated Hindu deities based on the book The Little Book of Hindu Deities, which will be carried in the MFAH shop.

The museum is also in conversation with contemporary artist Anish Kapoor to create a site-specific installation piece for the Portal Project, which commissions site-specific works from contemporary artists for the entrances to the new Asian Art galleries. Anish Kapoor’s recent works include the large-scale sculpture installations Sky Mirror (2001) in Nottingham, UK, and Cloud Gates (2004) in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

The Nidhika and Pershant Mehta Arts of India gallery installation follows the Arts of Korea and Indonesian Gold gallery openings in December 2007 and December 2008, respectively, with gallery openings planned for the Arts of China in February 2010 and Japan in May 2010.