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Decline and Rise 

Wednesday, Nov 23 2011
Ideally, art exhibits offer an "ah-ha" moment, when you stand transfixed and realize, "This speaks to me like nothing before." This exhibit contains pieces that scream "ah-ha" — that challenge your assumptions and reveal the massive contradictions of a culture that has enthralled outsiders for millennia. "Maharaja: The Splendors of India's Royal Courts" shows an India subjected to British colonialism. Many of the most opulent treasures on display — the tear-drop ornament made of gold, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds; the public throne embossed with gold sheets; and the tamburi instrument laden with ivory — are now the property of British museums. The humiliation that India faced under British rule is seen most pointedly in The Delhi Durbar of 1903, English painter Roderick Mackenzie's intoxicating panorama of a royal elephant procession. Held to commemorate the ascension of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as the Emperor and Empress of India, the procession had Indian maharajas ("great kings") in the rear, behind Edward VII's brother and the British viceroy. Mackenzie's wall-sized study lays bare the Indians' second-class status on their own soil. Some maharajas benefitted from British occupation, even welcoming the English as saviors. The British, in fact, resuscitated India's maharaja pecking order, cultivating and rewarding loyal leaders. "Maharaja" covers this history in exquisite detail, revealing the faces (and bling) of the playboys and leaders instrumental in shaping India for centuries.
Tuesdays-Sundays; Tuesdays-Sundays; Tuesdays-Sundays; Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Oct. 21. Continues through April 8, 2011

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Jonathan Curiel

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