|In 1995, IoJ took a major decision to coordinate jointly with Victoria & Albert Museum, London an exhibition of Jain Art. This was the irst exhibition of Jain Art in Europe.|
|Jain Art from India – The Peaceful Liberators
Vast amount of preparatory work had gone in to planning and arranging of this exhibition. Thanks to the active interest and enthusiasm of the Directors and members of V & A that this mammoth task became possible. Dr. Deborah Swallow, the then Curator of the Indian and S.E. Asian Collection and Dr John Guy who co-curated the exhibition deserve special praise and our sincere thanks for their untiring efforts in brining the exhibition to life.
Jainism and its rich artistic traditions were too little known outside India, too little understood Unlike the arts of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, which had been given extensive coverage over the previous decade, Jain art had only been represented by smaller selections of works in larger more general exhibitions. Furthermore, the Museum knew that there was in the UK a vibrant and active Jain community. eager to establish a better understanding of Jainism and its significance in today’s world. A major exhibition might well be a way of creatively and constructively drawing these interests together.
All too often a good idea remains only an idea. The route from initial proposal to the opening of an exhibition was long and yet the timescale that would have to be achieved was already, in international exhibition terms, very short. A great deal of enthusiasm, energy, good will and generosity, if not a few miracles, would be needed. For the UK’s national museums are only partly funded by government grant.
Museums need to seek external funding for their new galleries, exhibitions and special programmes and the costs of a major exhibition are high. There were two possibilities either to seek a single commercial sponsor, or to launch a more broad based appeal. It was soon decided to take the second, more complex but more enriching option. The Museum sought the advice of our most supportive High Commissioner for India, His Excellency Dr. L.M. Singhivi. Without hesitation he introduced the Museum to Mr. Ratilal Chandaria and the Institute of Jainology. The IOJ in turn readily offered to serve as co ordinator and soon involved both the broader UK community and the international Jain community. At the same time, the Nehru Gallery’s key supporters at the Diamond Trading Company, Mr Edward Dawe, himself a trustee of the V&A, Mr Gary Ralfe and Mr lan White offered warm assistance.
By early 1994, the academic work on the exhibition was complete, and Los Angeles County Museum had succeeded in winning critical grants towards some of the central costs of the exhibition from the US National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts. With other local support all was ready for the first showing at Los Angeles in the autumn. In the UK much remained to be done. During the summer the Jain community was deeply involved in a number of international events. The gathering of many Jains in London in late July to celebrate the publication of Tatvartha Sutra as part of the International Sacred Literature Series, the installation of an image of the Tirthankara Mahavira at the High Commissioner’s residence, and the award of a Belgian Knighthood to Shri Vijay Shah, provided an appropriate occasion to announce publicly the plans for the exhibition and the gracious agreement of Her Majesty the Queen and His Excellency the President of India to be its joint Patrons.
During the autumn a distinguished group of people agreed to become members of the exhibitions Honorary Council, Advisory Committee and Executive Committee, and by the spring of 1995 the task of fundraising began in earnest. At the first meeting of the committees in February the representatives of De Beers pledged support in March; Mr Ratilal Chandaria, Chairman of the Fund raising Sub committee, met senior members of the Jain community in East Africa, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong; in early April at a meeting in Bombay Mr Harshadhbhai Kapadia, Mr Ashok Jain of the Times of India Group, Shri Shrenikbhai Kasturbhai, Chairman of the Shwetambar Murtipujak Jain Boarding and Shri Dipchand Gardi of the Shwetainbar Murtipujak Jain Sangh, Mr Manharlal Shah of the Sthanakvasi Jain Sangh, all pledged support. Back at the V&A at a function in the Museum’s Morris and Gamble Rooms on May 10th graced by His Excellency Dr. Singhvi and Mrs Singhvi, Sir Nevil Macready, a senior trustee of the Museum and Baroness Flather, a member of the exhibitions Honorary Council, the Navnat Vanik Association of the UK announced substantial financial pledges from association members. The Oshwal Association of the UK announced both financial support and the loan of a beautiful model marble temple at a function at the V&A on May 26th.
The groundswell had begun and the subsequent months saw additional substantial pledges of support from a wide variety of sources from the Jain Community world wide, including Hong Kong, East Africa, Canada, Singapore, Japan, South Africa, Belgium and Seychelles, and of course from the UK, from international corporations working in or with India, from the diamond community both Jain and non Jain in Belgium, India and the UK, and from other supporters and friends. June 22nd saw another significant moment the arrival of the first major cheque. ceremonially handed to the V&As Director by James Deas., President of the Nortel Asia South Pacific and witnessed by HE Dr. Singhvi, Mr Clarence Chandran. President of Nortel Latin America, Mr Ratilal Chandaria. Mr Rati Shah, Mr Vinod Udani, Mr Bipin Mehta. Mr Jim Close, and other members of the V&A staff. Meanwhile the exhibition has continued its successful tour of the United States, moving from the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth to New Orleans.
The V&A Museum believes that this exhibition will continue to increase understanding of Jainism and the Jain artistic tradition. But the V&A will always remember The Peaceful Liberators Jain Art from India with gratitude to the Institute of Jainology and the international Jain community for the generous and unstinting co operation which made the London showing both possible and unique.
Dr. Deborah Swallow was the Curator of the Indian and S.E. Asian Collection at the V & A Museum at the time.