This Exhibit Closed on May 12, 2024

Raqib Shaw: Ballads of East and West

Thursday, February 15 - May 12, 2024
Hostetter Gallery, Fenway Gallery, and Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade

Raqib Shaw: Ballads of East and West at the Gardner Museum, co-curated with Dr. Zehra Jumabhoy, is an invitation to see the world as Raqib Shaw sees it: “An amalgamation, a hybrid, a cocktail.” The exhibition unfolds across three locations, from a newly commissioned work on the Anne H. Fitzpatrick façade, to a deep dive on Shaw’s process in the Palace's Fenway Gallery to twelve-years worth of paintings in the Hostetter Gallery in the New Building in which, like Shaw’s view of the world: “The more you look, the more it will reward you.”

Raqib Shaw is an internationally renowned painter, whose work echoes across centuries and continents articulating a dialogue between East and West. Based in London, the artist lived most of his childhood in the Indian city of Srinagar, a ‘Heaven on Earth’ encircled by Himalayan mountains, lakes, and magical gardens. The Kashmir he knew as a child no longer exists, marred by political insurgencies. For Shaw, Kashmir represents a trampled Eden—a paradise lost—and references to the beauty and trauma of his childhood abound in his work.

Shaw’s paintings are flamboyant, fantastical, and extremely labor-intensive. They are puzzles that always include certain key ingredients: self-portraiture, landscapes in peril, references to historic painting, or moments from his own life. Shaw frequently depicts himself as satyr, a joker, a saint, a philosopher, or a blue-skinned divinity clad in sumptuous robes. The sensuous, glossy intensity of the jewel-like painting surface is rendered in infinite colors and shades with a painstaking technique—enamel paint, applied with porcupine quills to birch wood panels.

The exhibition, organized by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Frist Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, first opened at the Frist Museum on September 14, 2023 and will be on view at the Gardner Museum from February 15 through May 12, 2024. From Boston, Raqib Shaw: Ballads of East and West will head to two additional museums: The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas from June 9 through September 2, 2024 and then the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California  from November 15, 2024 through March 20, 2025. 

About the Artist

Raqib Shaw

Raqib Shaw, Photo: Tom Thistlethwaite, 2023

Raqib Shaw’s (b. 1974, India) works reveal an eclectic fusion of influences—from Persian carpets to Renaissance painting to Japanese lacquerware—and are often developed from literary, art, and historical influences. Shaw has devised a unique method of painting; manipulating enamel and industrial metallic paints with a porcupine quill to fashion the sharp details and rich surface textures of rocks, coral, foliage, feathers and flowers. Shaw has had solo exhibitions at Tate Britain, London (2006); the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2008); Manchester Art Gallery (2013); Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague (2013), and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2018). His exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery, the University of Manchester, UK (2017) was reimagined for the Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh, the following year. Ballads of East and West, Shaw's survey exhibition will travel on to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino in 2024. Shaw spent his formative years in Calcutta and Kashmir before moving to London in 1997 where he currently lives and works.

Raqib Shaw: Ballads of East and West is organized by the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, with guest curator Dr. Zehra Jumabhoy.

Additional Venues: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: June 9 – September 2, 2024 and The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens: November 16, 2024 – March 3, 2025

Support for the exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is provided by the Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Steve and Alexandra Cohen, Pace Gallery, and White Cube.

The Artist-in-Residence program is directed by Pieranna Cavalchini, Tom and Lisa Blumenthal Curator of Contemporary Art, and is supported by the Barbara Lee Program Fund. Funding is also provided for site-specific installations of new work on the Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade on Evans Way.

The Gardner Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.