“Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts” exhibition at the Asian Art Museum reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle, 10/27/11:
“Maharaja” leaves a most peculiar impression of vacillating between nostalgia for empire and for a pre-colonial authenticity, between imperialist chagrin and a vague hope for riddance of hereditary elites, chiming incidentally with the global protest events of recent months.
But more depressing than the downward narrative arc of “Maharaja” is the fainter arc it traces faintly from museum projects centered on artworks to ones centered on emptier luxuries whose value makes itself felt only in possessive fantasy.
“Essence of Indian Art” (25 years ago) equipped its visitors to look understandingly at things they had not yet seen. It presupposed – perhaps mistakenly – a widely shared curiosity and receptivity that “Maharaja” and its ilk no longer take for granted or seem interested in reigniting.