Bharti Kher: Ancestor

About the Exhibition

Bharti Kher (b. 1969, London, United Kingdom) connects New Delhi and New York City with this nearly eighteen-foot-tall bronze universal mother figure, her most ambitious artwork to date. Its source is a miniature statue from the artist’s “Intermediaries” series, assembled by recomposing broken clay figurines. Kher finds these small objects in secondhand markets in India, where she moved in 1992 after being raised and educated in the United Kingdom.

This colossal sculpture reflects Kher’s cross-cultural identity and her appreciation for India’s rich material culture. Every meaning-laden detail and distressed surface of the original hand-crafted object has been meticulously magnified to reflect the journey of this matriarch’s creation. In contrast to urban statuary that commemorates historic individuals or events, Ancestor enters the public space as an allegorical representation paying homage to both the generations that came before and those to follow. Kher’s temporary monument echoes the spirit of the Statue of Liberty. She is an empowered force fostering a diverse community—a hybrid figure whose symbolic references to multiculturalism and plurality embody the possibility of an interconnected space of belonging and care.

The exhibition is curated by Public Art Fund Adjunct Curator, Daniel S. Palmer, PhD

Ancestor is commissioned by Public Art Fund, New York, and is in the collection of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi.

About the Artist

Born in London in 1969, Bharti Kher has worked across painting, sculpture, and installation for more than two decades, transforming a range of everyday materials from the bindi to furniture, saris and clay figurines, into new states of being and forms that are entirely her own. Led by her personal experience of double displacement, Kher weaves together the daily rituals of everyday life drawn from multiple places with a kind of magical realism and created mythology. Highly attuned to the complexities of class, race, and gender, her artworks are multifaceted and un-fixed. Kher navigates this and her own position as a woman, creator, and artist traversing different geographic, cultural, and social environments. Her work encompasses an expansive range from figuration to abstraction, spanning the detailed cast bodies of sex workers to the adjacency of precariously balanced geometric and organic shapes and forms. Kher’s engagement with Indian visual and material culture informs both the subject and material of many of her works. Kher has exhibited in museums around the world, including solo exhibitions at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland; DHC/Art, Montreal, Canada; Museum Frieder Burda / Salon Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada; Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China; and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United Kingdom. Her work is held in the collections of Tate, London, United Kingdom; Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland, Australia; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea; Ishara Art Foundation, Dubai, UAE; and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE; among others. The artist presently lives and works between London and New Delhi.

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Public Art Fund Living Land Acknowledgment: 

Public Art Fund offers gratitude to the Lenape, original people of the land on which we are now based. We acknowledge the genocide and forced removal of the Lenape nations from Lenapehoking, their homeland. We honor the many First Nations peoples who continue to live and work in this region today.

The Lenape people today are members of the following nations: Delaware Nation, Anadarko, Oklahoma; Delaware Tribe of Indians, Bartlesville, Oklahoma; Mohican Nation Stockbridge–Munsee Band , Bowler, Wisconsin; Munsee-Delaware Nation, Canadian reserve near St. Thomas, Ontario; Moravian of the Thames First Nation, Canadian reserve near Chatham-Kent. We thank The Lenape Center of New York for their guidance in developing this living land acknowledgement.

Public Art Fund ofrece su gratitud a los lenape, pueblo originario de la tierra en la que ahora nos encontramos. Reconocemos el genocidio y la expulsión forzada de las naciones lenape de Lenapehoking, su tierra natal. Honramos a los numerosos pueblos de las Naciones originarias que siguen viviendo y trabajando en esta región en la actualidad.

En el presente, los lenape son miembros de las siguientes naciones: Nación Delaware, Anadarko, Oklahoma; Tribu indígena de Delaware, Bartlesville, Oklahoma; Nación Mohica Banda Stockbridge-Munsee, Bowler, Wisconsin; Nación Munsee-Delaware, reserva canadiense cerca de Thomas, Ontario; Naciones originarias de Moravian of the Thames, reserva canadiense cerca de Chatham-Kent. Agradecemos a The Lenape Center of New York su orientación en la elaboración de este reconocimiento de tierra viva.