Press release

Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs

Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs

Exhibition Dates: October 11, 2017–January 2, 2018
Exhibition Location:   The Met Breuer, Floor 2
Press Preview: Tuesday, October 10, 10 am–noon


Raghubir Singh (1942–1999) was a pioneer of color street photography who worked and published prolifically from the late 1960s until his death in 1999 at age 56. Born into an aristocratic family in Rajasthan, Singh resided in Hong Kong, Paris, London, and New York—but his lifelong subject was his native India. The fall 2017 retrospective at The Met Breuer, Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs, will situate Singh’s photographic work at the intersection of Western modernism and traditional South Asian modes of picturing the world. It will feature 85 photographs by Singh in counterpoint with the work of his contemporaries—friends, collaborators, fellow travelers—and with examples of Indian court painting styles that inspired him.

The exhibition is made possible by Nita and Mukesh Ambani and the Reliance Foundation.

It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art with the cooperation of Succession Raghubir Singh.

The exhibition will trace the full trajectory of Singh’s career from his early work as a photojournalist in the late 1960s through his last unpublished projects of the late 1990s. Using a handheld camera and color slide film, he recorded India’s dense milieu in complex frieze-like compositions, teeming with incident, fractured by reflections, and pulsating with opulent color. Singh embraced color as part of a continuous Indian aesthetic tradition that reaches back to the miniature paintings of the Mughal period (1526–1857). He was also deeply influenced by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson (whom he met in Jaipur in 1966), Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray, and American street photographers such as William Gedney and Lee Friedlander, whose works will be on view in the exhibition. As he traveled along his own artistic path, Singh forged a distinctively Indian style of modernist photography that stands, as he put it, “on the Ganges side of modernism, rather than the Seine or East River side of it.”

Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs is curated by Mia Fineman, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs at The Met.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and supported by the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, Inc.

Related Programs

Education programs include Reflections on Raghubir Singh, with filmmaker Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake), photographer and screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala, and photographer Ketaki Sheth about Raghubir Singh's influence on their work. Friday, October 27 at 6:30 pm in the Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall at The Met Fifth Avenue.

As part of the MetLiveArts season, the award-winning Carnatic vocalist Abhishek Raghuram will perform at The Met’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium on Sunday, September 24 at 2:00 pm. Tickets start at $50. On Friday, October 13 and Saturday, October 14, the chef, author, and restaurateur, Yotam Ottolenghi, along with chef and author Madhur Jaffrey, will share a lavish banquet, Feast of India, inspired by the vibrant and evocative colors of India with a menu curated by celebrated chef Floyd Cardoz. (This event is sold out.)

Picture This! Tours for adults who are blind or partially sighted with be offered on Thursday, November 17 from 23:30 pm. Visitors should meet in The Met Breuer Lobby. These tours are free with Museum admission and registration is required. Family tours (children ages 311) will be offered on Saturday, October 14 and December 9 at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm at The Met Breuer.

The exhibition is featured on the Museum's website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #RaghubirSingh and #MetBreuer.

Following its debut at The Met Breuer, the exhibition will travel to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (March 3-June 3, 2018) and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (July 21-October 21, 2018)

Indian Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met has enjoyed a long history of collecting and studying art from India, with ongoing displays and special exhibitions presented in galleries throughout the Museum’s locations. The Met also recently renewed a long-term cooperative relationship with the Ministry of Culture of the Government of India, which established a partnership for sharing knowledge and expertise between The Met and cultural institutions in India.

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October 5, 2017

Image: Raghubir Singh, Pavement Mirror Shop, Howrah, West Bengal, 1991, Collection of Cynthia Hazen Polsky. Photograph copyright © 2017 Succession Raghubir Singh.

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