It encompasses the entire cosmos — Vishnu in his grand avatar, representing the spiritual concept of all creation, diverse manifestations of a single essence. He occupies the centre, while rest of the elements are in the periphery. Thousands of painted images come together to form one. This is Manjunath Kamath’s depiction of the Vishwaroop (pictured). Director of Belgium-based Museum of Sacred Arts, Martin Gurvich, refers to the artwork as one of the highlights of an exhibition that will comprise the festival titled “Forms of Devotion: The Spiritual in Indian Art”. A multidimensional arts project conceptualised around the notion of the spiritual and devotional in Indian art, the subject has been a preoccupation with Gurvich. “It’s something that interests me. The collection built over a decade has art from across India, covering different religions and beliefs,” says Gurvich, 52.
The collector has kept a close watch on projects related to religion and spirituality in India — from reading about them to visiting exhibitions, interspersed with regular visits to the country. His first purchase was a Rajasthani miniature, and the others followed —Arpana Caur’s serene Buddha to Sheba Chhachi’s Ulta Nag on an illuminated light box and Olivia Fraser’s mixed-media work on Sanganer paper. There are lesser-known works by Warli artists, Madhubani art, miniatures by artists from Udaipur, besides Pichwais, Gond art and Tanjore works as well. “We have exhausted all our resources,” says Gurvich, revealing that most artists were generous to part with works at discounted prices; SH Raza donated his work to the collection.
While the exhibition, curated by Sushma K Bahl and Archana B Sapra, will form an important part of the festival, other forms of art will also be celebrated. “It will be a comprehensive festival. There is a resurgence in forms of devotion the world over, and the festival will reflect that,” says Gurvich. As this exhibition travels to other cities across the world, he hopes to find a larger space for the Museum of Sacred Arts in Europe.
The exhibition is at Rabindra Bhavan, Lalit Kala Akademi, from March 21 to April 26.