A revelatory retrospective on Mrinalini Mukherjee

The Met Breuer is honouring famous Indian sculptor with a comprehensive retrospective.

Installation view of Phenomenal Nature, Mrinalini Mukherjee at The Met Breuer, 2019. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Installation view of Phenomenal Nature, Mrinalini Mukherjee at The Met Breuer, 2019. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

India and the world lost the talented sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee in 2015 and now her career bests have reached New York’s The Met Breuer for a unique revelatory retrospective. Titled Phenomenal Nature: Mrinalini Mukherjee, the exhibition showcases the artist’s famous sculptures made from fibre, along with her ceramic and bronze works that she explored in the middle and latter parts of her career. To be continued till 29th September, 2019, the exhibition has been made possible thanks to Nita and Mukesh Ambani and the Reliance Foundation, with the support of the Estate of Brooke Astor, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and The Coby Foundation, Ltd.

Max Hollein, Director of The Met commented: “Mukherjee combined her mastery of modern sculpture with inspirations drawn from nature and local Indian tradition to create an outstanding – and ground-breaking – body of work. This important exhibition invites viewers to revel in the commanding presence of these mysterious and sensual objects, while appreciating the innovation and intuition she brought to her art.”

The only child of artists Benode Behari Mukherjee and Leela Mukherjee, Mrinalini studied painting, printmaking, and mural making at the M.S. University in Baroda and further honed her skills under the tutelage of famous artist K.G. Subramanyan, who incidentally had studied under her father. Her first experiments with fibre were conducted under his guidance. From there on she continued to work intuitively with fibre, sculpting without any prior sketches.

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The exhibition follows her journey as she explored the divide between abstraction and figuration and went on to adapt craft techniques with a modernist formalism. She pursued knotting as her primary technique, that lent a three-dimensional look to her fibre sculptures. Using natural as well as hand-dyed ropes, the forms she fashioned included large anthropomorphic pieces as well some with more sexual imageries and then some more that were suggestive of classical Indian sculptures. The forms often swayed between mysterious and sensual to even grotesque and unsettling.

The exhibition Phenomenal Nature: Mrinalini Mukherjee has been organised by Shanay Jhaveri, Assistant Curator of South Asian Art in The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art.