Jitish Kallat's Covering Letter (2012) will appear in India's pavilion
Courtesy of artist and Philadelphia Museum of Art

India makes its return to the Venice Biennale this year after an eight-year hiatus with a Gandhi-themed exhibition and a line-up of seven Modern and contemporary artists. Atul Dodiya, GR Iranna, Jitish Kallat, Shakuntala Kulkarni and Ashim Purkayastha will all show in the Indian pavilion alongside works by two dead artists: Nandalal Bose (1882-1966) and Rummana Hussain (1952-1999) at the exhibition Our Time For a Future Caring.

This will be the second time India has shown at the biennial, having debuted in 2011. The show will celebrate 150 years since the birth of the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, and was commissioned by the National Gallery of Modern Art.

The exhibition is organised by the India Ministry of Culture and the non-governmental organisation the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and is curated by the pavilions principal partner, the private Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

“Art has never been a very important criterion for the government and it is time for us to change that and show the important part that art has played in the India”, says Kiran Nadar, the founder and chairperson of the eponymous art museum. Speaking at a press conference at Art Dubai, where the line-up was announced, Nadar said that she hopes that the pavilion will encourage the Indian government to recognise the importance of presenting art on a global stage and that this "wont be a one-off occasion".

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Although Indias return has been made possible through a collaboration between private and public institutions, the pavilions costs have been largely shouldered by Nadar, who tells The Art Newspaper that her personal contribution to Indias pavilion was “6 crores [roughly €800,000], about three times the amount the government has given”.

Also adamant that Indias presence at the biennial is secured for future years is Tarana Sawhney, the chairperson of CIIs Taskforce on Art and Culture. She says that ensuring Indias return to the Venice Biennale has been “her sole agenda” since her appointment, adding that the country's return was influenced by a CII report “which showed how art could benefit the national economy, revitalise cities and even be used as a soft power internationally”. The reasons behind India's absence after 2011 are still unclear, although Sawhney says that it was a governmental decision.

The pavilion is intended to celebrate Gandhis life and legacy, and to “offer conceptual investigations into his philosophical ideas and their place in todays complex world, in which violence and intolerance are still prevalent”.

However, in many countries Gandhis legacy is now being reassessed, in light of what some believe to be his derogatory views towards native African communities in


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