Spotlight on the Collection: August 2016

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Shiva Nataraja (Lord of Dance), 2013 Artisans: Sri Pradakaran, Sri Govindan and Sri Pratiban Shri Rajan Industries, Tamilnadu, India Bronze, lost wax casting, 65 x 52 x 21 ¾ inches Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Museum purchase with funds provided by Dora and Sanjay Singh AFI.130.2015
Shiva Nataraja (Lord of Dance), 2013
Artisans: Sri Pradakaran, Sri Govindan and Sri Pratiban
Shri Rajan Industries, Tamilnadu, India
Bronze, lost wax casting, 65 x 52 x 21 ¾ inches
Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Museum purchase with funds provided by Dora and Sanjay Singh AFI.130.2015

At the beginning of this year, the latest sculpture for the Red Mountain Garden Club Memorial Garden at the Museum was placed in its new home in a tree-shaded bower.

Shiva, the Auspicious One, is shown here as the Lord of Dance (Shiva Nataraja), a form he takes to bring the universe to an end so that it may be purified and recreated anew. The ring of flames around the figure is the cosmic fire of destruction. He dances upon a figure that represents ignorance, suggesting that worship of Shiva dispels the ignorance that obscures the truth. This iconography originated in southern India over one thousand years ago.

Shiva had quite a journey on his way to Birmingham. We first saw him on December 31, 2014 during a Museum trip to India when we visited the traditional bronze-casting foundry at Shri Rajan Industries in Tamilnadu. Cast in 2013, the sculpture is 65 inches tall and a wonderful example of the centuries-old tradition of lost-wax casting. We knew then that we wanted to acquire the piece for the Museum.

All sculptures from India must first get approval from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) before being exported. Our representative in India, Commander L.M. Krishnan of Starline Travels, helped us submit the application, which was promptly rejected. The ASI felt the sculpture was too good to be of recent manufacture and must be an antique. With more help from the Commander, we appealed their decision, and waited and waited. Clearance was eventually given and Shiva was on his way to Birmingham. He came by boat to New Jersey, by train to Birmingham, and then by truck to the BMA. Finally, on a chilly January morning, CraneWorks gently rigged the sculpture and ever so slowly raised him over the garden wall to set him in place.

Please come visit Shiva often in his new home. The sculpture is a major addition to the Museum collection, and we are grateful to Dora and Sanjay Singh for helping make this happen.