Nalini Malani in front of Caravaggio’s The Supper at Emmaus at the National Gallery © Photo: The National Gallery, London

Nalini Malani redefines the moving image in the first-ever National Gallery Contemporary Fellowship


Nalini Malani: My Reality is Different – National Gallery Contemporary Fellowship with Art Fund, Holburne Museum, Bath, Friday 7 October 2022 – 8 January 2023 

New video animations featuring famous paintings in the National Gallery and the Holburne Museum, Bath, have been created by Nalini Malani, the first artist to receive the National Gallery’s Contemporary Fellowship, supported by Art Fund.  

With a fierce commitment to pushing boundaries and experimenting and exploring the possibilities of the moving image, Nalini Malani has created a deep black exhibition space in the Holburne Museum, Bath, with one monumental artwork, My Reality is Different 

Encompassing over 40 meters of wall, the 25 striking new animations immerse the viewer in a panorama of nine large video projections, played in a continuous loop. These animations are based on an idiosyncratic selection by Malani from famous paintings in the National Gallery and the Holburne Museum.  

Pictures by Caravaggio and Bronzino in the National Gallery’s collection, and by Jan van der Venne and Johann Zoffany in the collection of the Holburne Museum, Bath, have inspired the animations in an exhibition which, following its opening at the Holburne Museum, Bath, on 7 October 2022, moves to the National Gallery next year.   

Classical stories have been transformed by playful hand-drawn animations, made using an iPad, that reveal and conceal different aspects of the paintings in both collections to rediscover them from an alternative, and critical point of view.  

By overlapping the nine video projections and showing the animations of different length in a loop without syncing them, Malani has chosen to go beyond the Western linear view. As a result, there is an endless change of juxtapositions and interaction of the images, allowing the spectator to co-create their own meanings.  

Embodying the role of the artist as a social activist, Malani puts the Western Canon under pressure in these animations where traditional art history and its European figures are no longer the only source of meaning.  

The title of the exhibition, Nalini Malani: My Reality is Different – National Gallery Contemporary Fellowship with Art Fund, is drawn from a phrase often associated with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass in which the Cheshire Cat is claimed to have said: ‘I’m not crazy, my reality is different from yours.’ 

The project is the culmination of Nalini Malani’s selection in 2020 as the first artist to receive the National Gallery’s Contemporary Fellowship, supported by Art Fund. The two-year research and production programme has allowed Malani to work in close collaboration with specialists from both the National Gallery and the Holburne Museum in Bath to study the institutions and their collections, with the aim to create a new artwork. 

As well as the sequences inspired by the paintings, Malani has made fictitious portraits of the maginalised in society, that appear in between the animations. The faces of these people, whose labour underpins the economies that connect us across the globe, disappear behind colourful candlestick stock-market charts, and graphic examples of the complex financial systems. 

The final artwork will be documented in a fully illustrated 144-page hard-cover catalogue, published after the Holburne Museum opening, with newly commissioned articles by Mieke Bal, Will Cooper, Zehra Jumabhoy, Daniel Herrmann, Nalini Malani and Priyesh Mistry.

The new National Gallery Contemporary Fellowship with Art Fund is a pioneering, peer-to-peer collaboration with a non-London collecting institution. The Fellowship, which is awarded to an artist of international standing and renown with a major body of work that has significantly contributed to 20th and 21st century art, is part of the National Gallery’s Contemporary Programme, sponsored by Hiscox. 

 The National Gallery Contemporary Fellowship is supported by Art Fund, which enabled an open call to public collecting institutions outside London to become the partner institution. The National Gallery’s Modern and Contemporary Advisory Panel selected the Holburne Museum in Bath as the partner institution for the inaugural Fellowship. The Holburne Museum will have the opportunity to acquire a work which has been created as part of the Fellowship. 

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, London, says:’ Nalini Malani fixes her gaze on paintings from the western canon in the National Gallery and in our partner museum, The Holburne in Bath, to offer a visually striking multi-layered critique of the tradition they represent and many of the assumptions that underpin it.’ 

Dr Chris Stephens, Director of the Holburne Museum, Bath, says: ‘It is a great honour for the Holburne to have been selected as the inaugural partner in the National Gallery’s Contemporary Fellowship programme and to be working with an artist of Nalini Malani’s stature. I cannot think of a more appropriate artist to engage with the Holburne’s eclectic collection that is replete with transnational stories and conversations. We are deeply grateful to the National Gallery, Art Fund and, of course, Nalini for this wonderful opportunity.’ 

 Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, says: ‘Our public collections have an enduring power to inspire, as demonstrated by Nalini Malani’s artistic transformations of greatly loved works from the National Gallery and Holburne Museum. Collaboration between museums is more important than ever post pandemic, and we are delighted that audiences in both Bath and London will be able to enjoy new work by such an exceptional international artist.’ 

 Daniel F. Herrmann, National Gallery Curator of Modern and Contemporary Projects, says: ’While criticising a Western male hegemony, from the perspective of a Cassandra, Malani’s animation chamber, as she calls this form of art, never sacrifices the beauty and the aesthetics in her all-inspiring alternative new visions of the world. With My Reality is Different, Malani activates Western cultural memory to take a contemporary responsibility by making an unusual form of new art in dialogue with the art of the past.’ 

Nalini Malani is the first artist to be chosen for this Fellowship which has been created as part of the Gallery’s Modern and Contemporary Programme 

The National Gallery’s Contemporary Fellowship is supported by Art Fund, with additional support from Dasha Shenkman OBE 

Supported by
Art Fund

Nalini Malani: My Reality is Different – National Gallery Contemporary Fellowship with Art Fund
Holburne Museum, Bath, Friday 7 October 2022 – 8 January 2023
£11 (£12.50 with Gift Aid) admission for the permanent collection and all temporary exhibitions, 18 and under FREE. 

Nalini Malani: My Reality is Different – National Gallery Contemporary Fellowship with Art Fund
The National Gallery, London 2 March – 11 June 2023, Sunley Room, Admission free 

About Nalini Malani 

Nalini Malani, born in 1946 in Karachi, British India, lives and works in Mumbai, India. Due to Partition her family were forced to leave their homes as refugees. The imposed poverty in a land with unfamiliar languages and cultures made the relocation extremely difficult. Graduating from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, in 1969, her practice began with photography, experimental film and abstract painting.  

For over five decades Malani’s work has increasingly questioned conventions of painting and drawing, to be able to reach a wider audience and speak up against the rise of political oppression. As the pioneer of video art in India, she created new ways of immersive video installations, which she coined ‘video plays’, her signature ‘video/shadow plays’ and ‘animation chambers’. In these and other experimental art forms, such as her collaborative theatre plays, the ephemeral wall drawings /erasure performances and multi-panel reverse paintings, Malani’s focus has been consistently on themes of transnational politics, the ramifications of globalisation, and the critical examination of gender roles. Malani’s work considers the human and universal aspects of conflict, giving a voice to the stories of those marginalised by history – particularly women.  

Since 2000, Malani has had five retrospectives; Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli (2018); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2017); Kiran Nader Museum of Art, New Delhi (2014); Museé cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne (2010) and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem (2004), and over fifteen museum solo exhibitions including M+, Hong Kong (2022), Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague (2021), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2021), Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona (2020); Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Mumbai (2020); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, (2016); the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2012), and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2002). In 2019 she won the Joan Miró Prize, Barcelona; in 2016 the Asian Art Game Changers Award, Hong Kong; in 2014 the St. Moritz Art Masters Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2013 the Fukuoka Arts and Culture Prize. 

About the National Gallery’s Modern and Contemporary Programme 
For nearly two centuries, the National Gallery’s Collection has provided inspiration to contemporary artists. The National Gallery’s Modern and Contemporary Programme continues this tradition through exhibitions, displays, commissions, and residencies. 2019 saw the unveiling of Bridget Riley’s monumental wall painting Messengers in the Gallery’s Annenberg Court. Other exhibitions within the programme have included Kehinde Wiley: The Prelude, Sea Star: Sean Scully at the National Gallery (13 April – 11 August 2019), Young Bomberg and the Old Masters (27 November 2019 – 1 March 2020) and Rachel MacLean: The Lion and The Unicorn (29 November 2018 – 3 February 2019). As well as the inaugural Contemporary Fellowship of Nalini Malani there have also been two National Gallery Artists in Residence, a new residency supported by the Contemporary Art Society and aimed at mid-career artists which replaces the Gallery’s previous Associate Artist scheme.  The first Artist in Residence in 2019-20 was Rosalind Nashashibi and the second is Ali Cherri whose residency exhibition is soon to open with this year’s residency partner the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry.   

About the Holburne Museum, Bath
The Holburne Museum’s mission statement is ‘Changing Lives Through Art’, signalling its commitment to opening up the enjoyment of art to people of all ages and from every walk of life. The Holburne was founded in 1882 with the gift of Sir William Holburne’s collection of 16th- and 17th-century Italian and Dutch paintings, silver, sculpture, furniture, porcelain and diverse objets d’art of national and international significance. That founding gift has been augmented with a collection of 18th-century paintings by such artists as Gainsborough, Lawrence, Ramsay, Stubbs and Zoffany. Set within the historic Sydney Pleasure Gardens, the Museum reopened in May 2011 after ambitious renovations and with a new, award-winning extension by Eric Parry Architects. The Holburne has since secured a national reputation as an outstanding museum which holds critically acclaimed exhibitions. Its programme of exhibitions, commissions and events sets out to bring to Bath great art of all periods and from around the world, seeking to set the art of the past in dialogue with contemporary practice in exciting and dynamic new ways. 

About Art Fund 
Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. It provides millions of pounds every year to help museums to acquire and share works of art across the UK, further the professional development of their curators, and inspire more people to visit and enjoy their public programmes. Art Fund is independently funded, supported by Art Partners, donors, trusts and foundations and the 130,000 members who buy the National Art Pass, who enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places, 50% off major exhibitions, and receive Art Quarterly magazine. Art Fund also supports museums through its annual prize, Art Fund Museum of the Year. The winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021 is Firstsite in Colchester. National Art Pass holders receive 50% exhibitions at The Holburne Museum. 

About the Hiscox Group
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