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      Collection

      South Asian Art

      Rooted in intercultural influence and exchange, PEM’s South Asian collection celebrates the diversity of the region’s rich creative output and its people.

      South Asian Art

      By the end of the 18th century, Salem merchants had joined their European rivals in the lucrative trade with South and Southeast Asia.

      The earliest American traders who traveled to the Indian subcontinent went in search of silk, cotton and fragrant sandalwood, as well as sugar, ginger and indigo. India was then, and remains today, a land of tremendous diversity and paradox — a vast multitude of cultures, languages and faiths, where the distant and more recent pasts are still felt in the present.

      PEM’s collection prioritizes works from the 18th century to today that speak of global interaction. Among the highlights of PEM’s historic South Asian collection are its internationally renowned holdings of 19th-century Kalighat paintings. Taking their name from a temple to the goddess Kali, these lively watercolors were first sold to local laypeople and later became popular with Western travelers seeking inexpensive curiosities and conversation pieces to take home.

      In 2001, the transformative gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz collection of 20th-century Indian art established PEM as the first museum outside of India to focus on the achievements of the country’s modern artists, including painters already well established in India such as M.F. Husain and Tyeb Mehta, as well as Atul Dodiya and Nalini Malani. These works speak not only of India’s struggles and dreams as an independent nation, but also of the bonds between artists and their admirers.

      All the Flowers Are for Me, Anila Quayyum Agha’s immersive installation, signaled PEM’s first major acquisition of a work by an artist of Pakistani descent. The collection also includes works from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal and Bhutan, including an exceptional group of Bhutanese textiles.

      Highlights from this collection

      Woman ’95, 1995

      ON VIEW

      Woman ’95, 1995

      G. Ravinder Reddy (b. 1956, India)

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      August ‘81, 1981

      ON VIEW

      August ‘81, 1981

      Biren De (1926–2011, India)

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Man, 1951

      ON VIEW

      Man, 1951

      Maqbool Fida (M.F.) Husain (1915–2011, India)

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Bindu La Terre, 1983
      Bindu La Terre, 1983

      Sayed Haider (S.H.) Raza (1922–2016, India)

      Untitled, 1973

      ON VIEW

      Untitled, 1973

      Tyeb Mehta (1925–2009, India)

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      2nd October, 1993

      ON VIEW

      2nd October, 1993

      Atul Dodiya (b. 1959, India)

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Old Arguments on Indigenism, 1989

      ON VIEW

      Old Arguments on Indigenism, 1989

      Nalini Malani (b. 1946, India)

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Protector Goddess, mid-19th century

      ON VIEW

      Protector Goddess, mid-19th century

      Artists in Kerala, India

      On view in Powerful Figures.

      Devotee of Krishna, about 1823

      ON VIEW

      Devotee of Krishna, about 1823

      Kashinath Pal in Krishnanagar

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Two Men with Hand Cart, 1979

      ON VIEW

      Two Men with Hand Cart, 1979

      Gieve Patel (b. 1940, India)

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Girl Eating Rasagolla, 1980

      ON VIEW

      Girl Eating Rasagolla, 1980

      K.G. Subramanyan (1924–2016, India)

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Woman ’95, 1995
      Woman ’95, 1995

      G. Ravinder Reddy (b. 1956, India), Woman ’95, 1995. Fiberglass and gilding. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 1999, E300456.

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      August ‘81, 1981
      August ‘81, 1981

      Biren De (1926–2011, India), August ‘81, 1981. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301030.

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Man, 1951
      Man, 1951

      Maqbool Fida (M.F.) Husain (1915–2011, India), Man, 1951. Oil on fiberboard. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301146. Estate of M.F. Husain.

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Hanuman Revealing Rama and Sita in his Heart, 19th century
      Hanuman Revealing Rama and Sita in his Heart, 19th century

      Artists in Kolkata, India, Hanuman Revealing Rama and Sita in his Heart, 19th century. Watercolor and tin on paper. Museum purchase, made possible by an anonymous donor, 2003. E302104.

      Bindu La Terre, 1983
      Bindu La Terre, 1983

      Sayed Haider (S.H.) Raza (1922–2016, India), Bindu La Terre, 1983. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301248.

      Untitled, 1973
      Untitled, 1973

      Tyeb Mehta (1925–2009, India), Untitled, 1973. Acrylic on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301099. Courtesy of the Estate of Tyeb Mehta.

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      2nd October, 1993
      2nd October, 1993

      Atul Dodiya (b. 1959, India), 2nd October, 1993. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301092.

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Old Arguments on Indigenism, 1989
      Old Arguments on Indigenism, 1989

      Nalini Malani (b. 1946, India), Old Arguments on Indigenism, 1989. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301088.

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Protector Goddess, mid-19th century
      Protector Goddess, mid-19th century

      Artists in Kerala, India, Protector Goddess, mid-19th century. Wood and pigment. Gift of Robert P. Gay, 1921. E18001.

      On view in Powerful Figures.

      Devotee of Krishna, about 1823
      Devotee of Krishna, about 1823

      Kashinath Pal in Krishnanagar, Devotee of Krishna, about 1823. Unfired clay, paint, textile. Gift of Captain James Buffington Briggs/Capt. Benjamin Vanderford, 1823. E9923.

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Two Men with Hand Cart, 1979
      Two Men with Hand Cart, 1979

      Gieve Patel (b. 1940, India), Two Men with Hand Cart, 1979. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2003. E301289.

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Girl Eating Rasagolla, 1980

      Girl Eating Rasagolla, 1980

      K.G. Subramanyan (1924–2016, India), Girl Eating Rasagolla, 1980. Reverse painting on acrylic. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301396.

      On view in the South Asian Art Gallery.

      Loans and acquisitions

      Loans and acquisitions

      PEM is committed to providing the broadest possible access to its collection through the loan of objects for educational and scholarly purposes. Learn how to request a loan from the museum’s collection.

      Keep exploring

      Exhibition

      South Asian Art

      Ongoing

      Past Exhibition

      MegaCity: India's Culture of the Streets

      August 1, 2015 to March 12, 2020