September 8th, 2018
The Paper Jewels Exhibition opened at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum in Mumbai on August 19th, 2018 and will run until October 1st. (It opens at Delhi's Art Heritage Gallery October 18th, and then goes to the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa in December.)
The exhibition features 361 postcards from Omar Khan's collection and the Alkazi Collection of Photography, numerous blow-ups of old postcards (19) as well as relevant old photographs (19), postcard albums (8), videos (4) and other associated materials. It is the first ever comprehensive exhibition of vintage Indian postcards, in the city where much of the early innovation in postcard art and printing during the early years of the medium took place. It covers the period from 1892 through 1947.
The exhibition is spread across four large rooms on the upper floor of the museum. The first room is devoted to the earliest postcards of India including advertising postcards, and those of cities like Kolkata and Delhi, as well as Sri Lanka by publishers like Raphael Tuck & Sons, H.A. Mirza & Sons, W. Rossler, and Plate & Co. Some of the first artist-signed postcards of India, published in Vienna and London, are also included.
The second and largest room covers Mumbai [Bombay], and the many postcards by publishers like the Ravi Varma Press and Clifton and Co. that helped define the form in the subcontinent from 1898 through 1905. Blow-ups of early postcards, associated figurines from the Bhau Daji Lad collection, old postcard albums and two videos, one on the Ravi Varma Press and one on M.V. Dhurandhar – the premiere Indian postcard artist of the time – allow the visitor to delve deeper into material and context. Room 2 speaks to the many forces, factors and subject matter that shaped postcards and their producers in a single location.
The third room covers hillstations like Ootacamund and Shimla, Kashmir, Indian soldiers during World War I and the Independence struggle. It shows how postcards were used as tools by freedom fighters to wrest control of the subcontinent back from British colonists and includes rare postcards of Mahatma Gandhi, Annie Besant, the Ali Brothers, Subhas Chanda Bose and Bhagat Singh.
A fourth room contains videos on a large screen about the book and the early Kolkata publisher W. Rossler, as well as a selection of postcards of major destinations like Varanasi and Jaipur and significant postcard characters like nautch dancers. Descriptive text and blow-ups of the printing methods used for postcards are also available.
Finally, a simultaneous exhibition M. V. Dhurandar: The Artist as Chronicler 1867 - 1944 in the Museum annex, curated by Tasneem Mehta and Himanshu Kadam includes a number of postcards and postcard blow-ups by Dhurandhar.
The entire exhibition offers a novel visual history of the late Raj. Local press-coverage and photographs of the opening night preview on August 18, 2018 are also available.
All photographs except 1, 2, 5 and 22 courtesy of the Bhau Daji Lad Museum.