The Claridges, 30 September – 28 November 2019
The 1960s was a period of immense change around the world, and it had deep ramifications on India’s socio-political scenario. The country had left behind the jubilation of Independence and was feeling the pinch of a nation grappling with the issues of development that impacted society and environment. A war with China in 1962 and Pakistan in 1965 had far-reaching implications on the national psyche— the first of shame, the latter of pride. Crippling shortages and unemployment were impacting life, even as the country’s success with the Green Revolution was directed at self-sufficiency. Migration from the villages to urban centres was increasing. Disparities—economic, gender or class—provided fertile ground for the alienation of the other. The more anglicised among the youth found themselves being drawn into the vortex of a global hippie movement.
The art establishment too found itself on the cusp of this change. Already, the revivalist Bengal School had been reviled by later modernists, and the Progressive Artists’ Group was now being viewed as the ‘establishment’. J. Swaminathan’s Group 1890 was at the helm of establishing a fresh, indigenous approach to abstract art, and in Madras, a nativist art movement was taking root. The art produced in the 1960s was more ‘serious’ than that of a previous generation, its palette more nuanced, and its context more firmly rooted in the cultural moorings of the country.
The 1960s was, in every sense, a celebration of ingenuous solutions in art practice. It was a time when a growing number of talented artists began to exhibit in the country’s still nascent galleries. Their voice held the promise of a new art that was at once a divergence with what had gone before, but without being exclusionary of its experimental history. The Sixties Show re-visits this momentous decade to reveal a glimpse of the high tide of modern art in India at a time of transformation.