Bharti Kher: Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston MA


Bharti Kher is the sixth artist-in-residence invited to create a temporary site-specific work for the Museum’s façade. Kher’s project reflects on maritime travel, highlighted by her interest in mapping and typography and references the migration of people in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Kher uses bindis, a popular forehead decoration worn by women in India, and a signature element in her work, to map demographic movement in an abstract way.

Bharti Kher’s (b. 1969, England) is an art of dislocation and transience, reflecting her own, largely itinerant life. Born and raised in England, the artist moved to New Delhi in the early 1990s after her formal training in the field. Consequently, the concept of home as the location of identity and culture is constantly challenged in her body of work. In addition to an autobiographical examination of identity, Kher’s unique perspective also facilitates an outsider’s ethnographic observation of contemporary life, class and consumerism in urban India.

Presently, Kher uses the bindi, a dot indicative of the third eye worn by the Indian women on their foreheads, as a central motif in her work. Bharti Kher often refers to her mixed media works with bindis, the mass-produced, yet traditional ornaments, as “action paintings.” Painstakingly placed on the surface one-by-one to form a design, the multi-colored bindis represent custom, often inflexible, as well as the dynamic ways in which it is produced and consumed today. The artist is also known for her collection of wild and unusual resin-cast sculptures and her digital photography.

Bharti Kher was born in London in 1969. She studied at Middlesex Polytechnic, London, and went on to receive her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art Painting with honors from Newcastle Polytechnic, in 1988. Her work has been exhibited globally including at the MAXXI Museum, Roma; Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Saatchi Gallery, London; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; and Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo; with solo shows at the Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai; Kukje Gallery, Seoul; Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong and Paris; Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London; and Nature Morte, New Delhi. Kher lives and works in New Delhi.

Bharti Kher: Not All Who Wander Are Lost, conceptual rendering. Photo by George Bouret.
Bharti Kher: Not All Who Wander Are Lost, conceptual rendering. Photo by George Bouret.