23 November 2023 - 10 March 2024, VILLA MALPENSATA, SPAZIO CIELO
The exhibition in the Spazio Cielo at Villa Malpensata is dedicated to the most significant of the many Indian celebrations that animate Hindu temples. The 'Chariot Festival', also known as the 'Great Festival', is a tradition that originated more than a thousand years ago and continues to this day. As complex and varied as the cultural and religious fabric of India is, the festival involves multiple rituals over several days and reaches its climax when the deity leaves the temple to meet his devotees. The deity temporarily leaves the most secret and sacred part of the temple embodied in a sculpture, which is hoisted on the top of majestic chariots, up to 30 metres high, sumptuously decorated and drawn in procession through the streets around the temple. Even the humblest of devotees are thus granted the privilege of darśana, the vision of the divine.The exhibition and its catalogue bring together the results of several years of field research conducted by Giulia Bellentani, a MUSEC scientific collaborator specialising in Indian art and culture and curator of the project. A selection of works from MUSEC can be admired in the exhibition, alongside loans from the Rietberg Museum in Zurich, as well as from the Ethnological Museum of the University of Zurich (E. Kaemmerling's depository), whose objects are presented here to the public for the first time.
There are 54 works in the five rooms on the top floor of Villa Malpensata, most of them dating from the period between the 17th century and the first half of the 20th century. The oldest work dates from between the 12th and 13th century. It consists of wooden sculptures depicting the personifications of some of the deities that populate the boundless Indian pantheon and of carved panels and wood carvings that decorated ceremonial chariots. Deeds and events of the deities, festive scenes and fertility celebrations are depicted, including subjects of an erotic nature, presented in a separate area of the exhibition. The visitor can also get an impression of the festival atmosphere thanks to a film made in 1930 by the Swiss artist and Indologist Alice Boner in Puri, in the state of Orissa (eastern India).