Mumbai-based artist Nalini Malani is to receive the first Contemporary Fellowship awarded by London’s National Gallery, and supported by Art Fund, it was announced on Thursday.
The new Fellowship is a pioneering, peer-to-peer collaboration with a non-London collecting institution, which this year is the Holburne Museum, Bath. The Fellowship is awarded to an artist of international standing and renown, with a major body of work that has significantly contributed to 20th and 21st-century art, the Gallery said.
The two-year research, production, and exhibition programme will allow Malani to work in close collaboration with specialists from both the National Gallery and the Holburne Museum to study the institutions and their collections and to create new art for an exhibition in Bath and London during 2022-23.
The research and production process and final artworks will be documented in a publication and the Holburne Museum will have the opportunity to acquire a work which has been created as part of the Fellowship.
Malani, born in 1946, lives and works in Mumbai. Graduating from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, in 1969, her practice began with experimental film and photography. From the late 1980s onward, Malani’s work increasingly questioned conventional painting traditions; reaching a wider audience and consistently speaking up against the rise of political oppression.
For over five decades, her work has focused on human and universal aspects of conflict, giving a voice to the stories of those marginalised by history — particularly women. Malani has been a major figure in a period of artistic globalisation.
As a pioneer of video art in India, she creates immersive installations, theatre, ephemeral wall drawings, erasure performances and her signature ‘shadow plays’. Her artworks focus on themes of transnational politics, the ramifications of globalisation, and the critical examination of gender roles.
Since 2000, the artist has had solo exhibitions at over 20 international institutions.
The Fellowship will culminate in an exhibition at the Holburne Museum, Bath, in autumn 2022, and at the National Gallery in spring 2023. Following its UK run, the exhibition will be available to tour internationally.
As Malani says, “it’s a great honour to be selected, by this international committee, to become the inaugural National Gallery Contemporary Fellow. This two-year programme is a unique challenge to research and create conversations with the collections and the teams of the National Gallery and the Holburne Museum. Cross-cultural/historical dialogues have been the basis of my art making for 50 years. All the more today I feel it is a pressing necessity as Our Stories have to be Retold, to give us a chance to become a more humane society.”
Daniel F. Herrmann, National Gallery Curator of Modern and Contemporary Projects, said: ‘Nalini Malani has proven to be one of the most compelling voices in contemporary art over past decades. A master storyteller with a keen awareness of political injustice, Malani tenaciously shows us the importance and beauty of images to reflect, reconsider and remake the world around us.”
Malani is the first artist to be chosen for this Fellowship.