5 February 2024
A major touring exhibition that explores the many different ways in which 20th century and contemporary artists have been inspired by the tradition of South Asian miniature painting will be on display in the St Luke’s church gallery at The Box from 17 February until 2 June 2024.
Beyond The Page: South Asian Miniature Painting and Britain, 1600 to Now, has already enjoyed a successful run at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, and is now moving to the South West with a fantastic selection of more than 100 historic and contemporary works.
At The Box, the exhibition forms part of a season investigating issues of history and place, with contemporary works shown alongside examples of miniature painting dating as far back as the mid-1500s. Many of these exquisite works have been drawn from major national collections including The Victoria & Albert Museum, Tate, the Wellcome Collection and British Library and are rarely displayed due to their fragility.
Beautiful miniatures deserve giant audiences.
With a long history that stretches back centuries, South Asian miniature painting is defined by its intricate craftsmanship, intimate scale and intense narratives featuring battle scenes, exquisite depictions of the natural world, love affairs, mythology and political intrigue.
Beyond The Page: South Asian Miniature Painting and Britain, 1600 to Now, focuses on Britain’s role in its development since the 1600s and explores how, from the 1900s onwards, artists have taken it beyond the pages of illuminated manuscripts to artforms such as sculpture, film and installation.
The exhibition features work by artists from different generations working in dialogue with the miniature tradition, including Hamra Abbas, David Alesworth, Nandalal Bose, Noor Ali Chagani, Lubna Chowdhary, Howard Hodgkin, Ali Kazim, Bhupen Khakhar, Jess MacNeil, Imran Qureshi, Mohan Samant, Nilima Sheikh, Willem Schellinks, the Singh Twins, Shahzia Sikander and Abanindranath Tagore.
The scope of the Indian miniature isn’t miniature at all.
Beyond the Page also explores the entangled histories of empire and globalisation. It’s believed there are around 100,000 South Asian miniatures in museum, gallery and library collections across the UK, many of which are rarely displayed. Arriving in Britain since the 1600s, they include works commissioned for export by the Mughal imperial court as well as paintings and manuscripts collected by employees of the once powerful East India Company.
The Box has a series of Mughal miniature paintings in its historically important Cottonian Collection – an outstanding fine art collection amassed during the 1600s and 1700s. Purchased in the mid-1700s, the paintings journeyed from India to London before arriving in Plymouth in 1853. To coincide with Beyond the Page, a small selection of them will be displayed in The Box’s 100 Journeys gallery and Cottonian Research Room.
A number of events will take place at The Box while Beyond the Page is on display including an in-conversation event on Saturday 17 February with exhibition co-curator Hamad Nasar and Sathnam Sanghera, author of the best-selling EmpireLand: How Modern Britian is Shaped by its Imperial Past and the recently published Empireworld: How British Imperialism Has Shaped the Globe.
Victoria Pomery, CEO at The Box said:
Beyond the Page is a stunning, seminal exhibition that links the past with the present, showing the influence of historic tradition on modern and contemporary art. It examines the central role that miniature painting has played in the art histories of both South Asia and Britain. We’re delighted to be bringing this unmissable show to Plymouth and South West audiences. It also provides an opportunity for The Box to showcase works from the Cottonian Collection highlighting how South Asian culture is represented in Plymouth’s holdings.
Beyond The Page: South Asian Miniature Painting and Britain, 1600 to Now is organised by MK Gallery in partnership with The Box. The exhibition is curated by Hammad Nasar and Anthony Spira with advice from Emily Hannam and is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue, which will be available from The Box's shop.
The exhibition is supported by The Bagri Foundation, Paul Mellon Centre, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi. It has been made possible as a result of the Government Indemnity Scheme. The Box would like to thank HM Government for providing Government Indemnity and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England for arranging the indemnity.
Did you come here to find history by Nusra Latif Qureshi, 2009. Courtesy of the artist.
The Explosion of the Company Man by Shahzia Sikander, 2011. Private Collection | A Rajput Sirdar by Samuel Fyzee-Rahamin, c.1914-1915 © Tate.
Church, Tree and Field by Matthew Krishanu, 2020. Courtesy of a Private Collection | A Lover Waiting For His Beloved by Imran Qureshi, 1999. Private Collection, London/Karachi.
Portrait of a Woman (detail), from an album made in Murshidabad, Bengal, around 1750-1800. From The Cottonian Collection © The Box, Plymouth.