Rina Banerjee. Chimeras of India and the West

From 25 May 2011 to 26 September 2011

Musée Guimet

As part of its spring-summer 2011 Indian Season the Musée Guimet is presenting “Chimeras of India and the West”, an exhibition of contemporary work by the Indian-born American artist Rina Banerjee.

Installed at the heart of the permanent collections, Banerjee’s hybrid, poetic compositions enter into resonant interplay with the works held by the museum, which date back hundreds and thousands of years, offering a new angle on Asian civilisations and their complex relations with the West.

Sensual sculptures made of shells, animal skulls, feathers and Indian fabrics; spectacular installations combining colonial objects and plastic materials found in the streets of New York; dream drawings in exotic colours depicting the body in a trance state – when laid out in the singular space-time of the Museum, Banerjee’s works express – more powerfully, no doubt, than they would in the neutral arena of an art gallery – the ambiguities of her twofold identity as a product of both East and West, the illusions bequeathed by the past and the “chimeras” of the new age, the contradictions of the post-colonial world and the underside of globalisation.

Within these walls laden with history, saturated with sociological and religious signs, Banerjee’s works conjure up a pantheon of demigods, of warlike female figures and fabulous animals, conveying the complexity of cultural mixes and the constant struggle for power between civilisations.

Born in Calcutta in 1963, Rina Banerjee left India for England and then the United States with her family when she was a young child. Trained as an engineer, she obtained a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Yale in 1995 and settled in New York, while maintaining close links with her homeland thanks to numerous stays in Asia.

Informed by this singular background, Banerjee’s work articulates a unique synthesis of mythologies and religions, anthropology and fairytales, exoticism and mass tourism. Challenging the order of the world in an explosive mix of imagination and materials, her delicate yet danger-tinged work gives rise to creatures that are constantly mutating, and sometimes monstrous, like metaphors of a world in a state of constant becoming.

After the exhibitions by Chu Teh-Chun and Hung-Chih Peng (summer 2009), followed by Rashid Rana and Chen Zhen (summer-autumn 2010), “Chimeras of India and the West” continues the Musée Guimet’s ambitious project, “The Manufactory of Contemporary Art in Asia,” exploring the interaction of ancient heritages and modern-day creativity.

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