The Met, NEW York | 2019
An untitled tapestry by Rashid Choudhury (1932–1986), recently gifted to The Met by Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani, is the first work of art made by a visual artist in independent Bangladesh to join the Museum's collection. While The Met does hold pre-modern works that are attributed to the region of Eastern Bengal, Untitled (1981) is a significant and major addition to the Museum's collection of modern and contemporary art because it broadens the department's remit of collecting and preserving important modern works from South Asia.
Untitled, now on view in gallery 399, presents an abstract and multifaceted twist of earth tones, with hints of orange and sections of light blue. I find that there is an arresting dynamism to the central component of the tapestry: it appears as a symphony of elongated and fragmented vertical shapes, which intertwine with each other in a way that is remarkably evocative of a body—or perhaps numerous bodies—in motion. This important work is a telling example of Choudhury's visual language, which is distinctly modernist and aesthetically innovative, but is also situated within a particular historical and cultural context.
Choudhury dedicated himself to the modern art movement in his country through his work as a teacher and community facilitator. In his own work he sought expression through a medium that was very demanding in practical terms and that was less-highly regarded as fine art when compared to painting and sculpture at the time. Nevertheless, he developed his own visual idiom, which drew from the rich, historic traditions of South Asian iconography as well as his studies in Europe. As is evident in his three tapestries at The Met, Choudhury distilled these varied pre-modern and modern forms to create works with a phenomenological impact—one that feels not only effortless, but also transportive.
The whole text written by DAS 2016 curator Shanay Jhaveri can be found here.
This is the second donation from the Foundation's collection, distributing the knowledge of Bangladeshi art history through the research conducted during the Dhaka Art Summit.