Copper in the Arts

August 2019

Phenomenal Nature: Mukherjee Retrospective opens at the Met

Mukherjee_Pressphoto.jpgWork by Sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee,  Vriksh Nata (Arboreal Enactment).
Photograph courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The retrospective work of sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee (1949–2015) was recently unveiled at The Met Breuer in New York City. Phenomenal Nature: Mrinalini Mukherjee, on view Sept. 29, marks the first comprehensive display of the artist’s work in the United States. Bringing together 57 pieces by Mukherjee, the exhibition will explore the artist’s longstanding engagement with fiber, along with her significant forays into ceramic and bronze from the middle and latter half of her career.

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

Additional support is provided by the Estate of Brooke Astor, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and The Coby Foundation, Ltd.

“Mukherjee combined her mastery of modern sculpture with inspirations drawn from nature and local Indian tradition to create an outstanding—and groundbreaking—body of work,” commented Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “This important exhibition invites viewers to revel in the commanding presence of these mysterious and sensual objects, while appreciating the innovation and intuition she brought to her art.”

Born in Mumbai in 1949 to artist parents, Mukherjee studied painting, printmaking, and mural making at the M.S. University in Baroda, India, with the influential artist K.G. Subramanyan, who had studied under her father. Subramanyan firmly rejected the Western modernist hierarchy between art and craft and encouraged his students, including Mukherjee, to engage with this legacy. It was under his guidance that Mukherjee first experimented with fiber.

A committed sculptor who worked intuitively, never resorting to a sketch or preparatory drawing, Mukherjee in her forms explored the divide between figuration and abstraction. Nature was her primary inspiration, and this was further informed by her enthusiasm for Indian historic sculpture, modern design, and local crafts and textile traditions. The exhibition will seek to highlight the radical intervention Mukherjee made by adapting crafting techniques with a modernist formalism.

Phenomenal Nature will also present the latter half of Mukherjee’s career in the mid-1990s, when, prompted by a residency at the European Ceramics Work Centre in the Netherlands, she began working with ceramics, eventually taking on bronze in 2003. 


The Met Breuer945 Madison Ave., New York, NY

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