The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India


Just over seven decades after the declaration of India's independence in 1947 and the emergence of a modern art movement in India, Asia Society presents a landmark exhibition of works by members of the Progressive Artists' Group, which formed in Bombay, now Mumbai, in the aftermath of independence. The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India will examine the founding ideology of the Progressives and explore the ways in which artists from different social, cultural, and religious backgrounds found common cause at a time of massive political and social upheaval.

Though the group disbanded in 1956, the movement continued to animate and give visual expression to India's modern identity, with many of the group's artists creating their most iconic works after this period. Works in the exhibition — primarily oil paintings­ from the 1940s to 1960s — underscore how these artists gave visual form to the idea of India as secular, heterogeneous, international, and united. Like their counterparts in the West, India's modern masters mined multiple sources of inspiration while forging their own distinctive styles. Their consideration of the ways in which a new secular republic could emerge from a rich, multi-religious tradition continues to be relevant today.

The exhibition comprises important works from the Group's core founders—K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, H. A. Gade, M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza, and F. N. Souza — as well as later members and those closely affiliated with the movement: V. S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee, and Mohan Samant.

The exhibition is organized by Zehra Jumabhoy, guest curator, and Boon Hui Tan, Director of Asia Society Museum. An illustrated catalogue featuring essays by leading scholars of Indian art and modern history will accompany the exhibition.

Part of the Season of India, a series of programs held in conjunction with the exhibition, The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India, on view at Asia Society Museum from September 14, 2018 to January 20, 2019. 

Related Events

Season of India Gala

Thursday, September 13, 2018 • 6:30-10:30 p.m.

Join Asia Society for a memorable evening celebrating the opening of The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India and the Season of India lineup of related arts, policy, current affairs, business, and cultural programs.

Writing the India Modern
Friday, September 14, 2018 • 4-5 p.m.

A panel of writers and critics, including Yashodhara Dalmia, Gayatri Sinha, and exhibition guest curator Zehra Jumambhoy discuss what is original, what is modern, and what parts tradition played in the construction of a progressive movement for a new India.

Collecting the Indian Modern
Friday, September 14, 2018 • 6-9 p.m.

A conversation with major collectors of the Progressive Artists' Group from India, London, and New York about their passion for this art and the future of India’s art scene. 

Godless Secularism: Europe, India, and Religion
Saturday, September 15, 2018 • 2:30-4 p.m.

Oxford University's Faisal Devji presents a provocative argument: The waning — not the rise — of religion questions our perceptions of modernity. What does this crisis of religion look like in Europe, and does its Indian history have anything to teach us about our present?

Midnight and the Moderns: Mapping Progressive Pasts and Proposing Secular Futures
Monday, September 17, 2018 • 6-8 p.m.

Reception from 6-8 p.m.
Members-only lecture: 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Galleries open until 9 p.m.
Docent-led tours at 6, 6:45, and 7:45 p.m.

As part of the members' opening reception and activities, exhibition guest curator Zehra Jumambhoy will trace the founding ideology of India’s so-called "quintessential Moderns.”  How relevant is their message today?

The Progressive Genealogy: Art and Culture in Modern India
Thursday, October 25, 2018 • 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

In this daylong symposium, artists, art historians, postcolonial theorists, historians, anthropologists, and political scientists explore the idea of the “progressive” in art, visual culture, science, and industry in early independent India.

The Progressive Genealogy: Art and Culture in Modern India
Thursday, October 25, 2018 • 6:30-8 p.m.

Acclaimed author and professor Homi K. Bhabha delivers the keynote address on the evolution of the "progressive" in art, visual culture, science, and industry in early independent India.


Major support for The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India is provided by Amita and Purnendu Chatterjee, Blanca and Sunil Hirani, Sangita Jindal, Sheryl and Chip Kaye, and Sana H. Sabbagh.

Generous support is provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Rajiv and Payal Chaudhri, Kent and Marguerite Charugundla, The Darashaw Foundation, Sonny and Michelle Kalsi, Kiran Nadar, Indra and Raj Nooyi, and The Rajadhyaksha Family.

Additional support is from Christie's; Jon Friedland and Shaiza Rizavi; Ralph and Ala Isham; Peter Louis, Chandru Ramchandani, and Lal Dalamal; The Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation; Sotheby's; and Kelly and Sundaram Tagore.

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