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Art Institute, India share a history

Updated: November 18, 2012 6:07AM



The Field Museum’s new exhibit “Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts” isn’t the only place in Chicago to take in the colorful art of India.

The Art Institute of Chicago has a large and world-renowned collection of Indian art throughout two galleries. In January, the museum became the first in the United States to receive a direct grant from the government of India, establishing a professional exchange with Indian museum leaders.

Art from India has been a part of the museum since its earliest days, said Madhuvanti Ghose, the Art Institute’s Alsdorf Associate Curator of Indian, Southeast Asian, Himalayan and Islamic Art.

“I think [museum founders] had a vision for the Art Institute right from day one and they wanted the Art Institute to be representative of the world’s cultures and not just European and western cultures,” she said.

In 1893, the World’s Parliament of Religions — held at the same time as the World’s Columbia Exposition — featured a Hindu monk named Swami Vivekananda who gave an impassioned and popular call for tolerance at 111 S. Michigan, now the site of the Art Institute.

The stretch of Michigan Avenue where he spoke received a street sign in his honor and Indian tourists continue to flock to the site today, Ghose said. The exchange program with India is a “living legacy” in Vivekananda’s honor, she said.

“This is something to be really proud, that this is in America and in Chicago,” she said. “It goes with the reputation of the Art Institute as a center of excellence around the world.”

Kara Spak



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