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THE MMFA ACQUIRES A UNIQUE COLLECTION OF SIKH ART

thanks to a major donation from the Sikh Art Collection, Narinder Singh Kapany and Satinder Kaur Kapany – Sikh Foundation International (U.S.A.), the Honourable Baljit Singh Chadha and Roshi Chadha

– A first in Canada –

sikh
INDIA, or PAKISTAN, PUNJAB REGION, illustrated Janamsakhi, mid-19th c. MMFA, Sikh Art Collection, Narinder Singh and Satinder Kaur Kapany – Sikh Foundation International (U.S.A.). Photo MMFA, Jean-François Brière

 

 

Montreal, June 15, 2022 – The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is delighted to announce the opening of the first ever space dedicated to Sikh art in a Canadian museum. The permanent collection of Sikh art has been installed in a new gallery, in the Museum’s Stephan Crétier and Stéphany Maillery Wing for the Arts of One World, located on the 4th floor of the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion. Inaugurated in November 2019, this wing is aimed at creating a dialogue between works from ancestral cultures and those by contemporary artists from here and abroad, using an updated intercultural and transhistorical approach.  

 

The Sikh artworks were generously gifted – along with financial contributions – by Narinder Singh Kapany (1926-2020) and Satinder Kaur Kapany (1954-2016) of the Sikh Foundation International (Palo Alto, California), as well as

the Honourable Baljit Singh Chadha and Roshi Chadha, of Montreal. Their generous donation of this collection – the only one of its kind in Canada – has made it possible to showcase the culture of the Sikh community, which has become an integral part of the North American fabric.

 

Displayed in part in the Stephan Crétier and Stéphany Maillery Wing, the collection includes remarkable works on paper depicting the ten gurus, splendid illuminations representing some of the famous Maharajas of the Sikh Empire (1799-1849) as well as ritual objects and rare minted nanakshahi coins from this illustrious period of artistic effervescence. Poignant publications on the Sikhs during the period of the British Raj (1858-1947) further contextualize and provoke thought on the exoticism of that age. The collection also features several phulkari shawls, which highlight the importance of Punjabi textile tradition.

 

For over half a century, Narinder Singh Kapany – recognized as the father of fiber optics – devoted himself to collecting Sikh art and promoting it around the world. This newly acquired collection, one of the largest in North America, provides a dynamic platform for dialogue, understanding, respect and inclusion. It thus mirrors the core values and contributions of the Sikh people, who currently number approximately 27 million worldwide. Although the majority are concentrated in northwest India, on the border with Pakistan, large communities of Sikhs are also found in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, and smaller communities exist in various other countries throughout the world. Almost all of their members can trace their roots back to Punjab.

 

“We are privileged to have the opportunity, for the first time in the Museum’s long history, to acquire and showcase a collection of Sikh art of such magnitude. The generosity and foresight of Narinder Singh Kapany, Baljit Singh Chadha and Roshi Chadha have made it possible for the MMFA to take the necessary steps to expand its audience, nurture new perspectives and welcome new voices, so that we may represent the plurality of today’s society,” says Stéphane Aquin, Director of the MMFA.

 

“We certainly hope that this first significant installation in our Museum will encourage further contributions from the community at large, to enrich and complexify the dialogue, and showcase the multiplicity of exchange and contacts, from the past to the present,” adds Laura Vigo, Curator of Asian Art, MMFA.

 

“My brother Raj Kapany and I, along with our families and the Sikh Foundation International, are extremely thankful to all those who helped to make the permanent exhibition of Sikh art at the MMFA a reality. They have done an exquisite job of realizing this long-held vision of ours. We are deeply grateful to Stéphane Aquin, Director of the MMFA, Danielle Champagne, Director General of the MMFA’s Foundation, Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Chief Curator, Laura Vigo, Curator of Asian Art, and Baljit Singh Chadha and Roshi Chadha. Their tireless efforts have brought to fruition the dream of our dear parents. Narinder and Satinder Kapany believed that the promise of this art lies in its ability to foster an understanding of our Sikh history, of who we are, so that we can find unity in our common humanity. Through the artworks of the Collection, the public will learn about our people’s history and experiences – both the wonderful and the painful – and come to understand the spiritual and educational power of Sikh art through the wisdom of our parents,” says Kiki Kapany, daughter of Narinder Singh Kapany and Satinder Kaur Kapany.

 

“We are proud to bring this collection of Sikh art to the Museum and, by extension, the community in Montreal and beyond. Previously, we brought Indigenous art to India in the installation of a nine-foot inukshuk in front of the High Commission of Canada as well as in an exhibition of Inuit artworks from the National Gallery of Canada’s collection at the National Museum in New Delhi. The creation of the Sikh gallery at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is an equivalent gesture in the other direction. It will be the first permanent exhibit of Sikh art in a major Canadian museum,” say Baljit and Roshi Chadha, major patrons and initiators of this unique project.

 

To mark the inauguration of this new space at the MMFA, various activities and events touching on different aspects of Sikh culture – art, music and film – and the Sikh diasporic experience will be organized throughout the year at the Museum.

 

Acknowledgements

This project was made possible by the Sikh Art Collection, Narinder Singh Kapany and Satinder Kaur Kapany – Sikh Foundation International (U.S.A.), and the Honourable Baljit Singh Chadha and Roshi Chadha. The MMFA is grateful for their patronage.

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