Sahmat | Art in Context

Photo by David Popplow

A guest post by Kendra Ainsworth, Assistant Curator

The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India Since 1989 is a novel exhibition for the AGM for a number of reasons. First, the AGM is the only Canadian stop for this noted touring show originated by the Smart Museum in Chicago, and second, it offers visitors the opportunity to engage with the idea that art is always part of a larger social context.

While the theme of art and activism in this show makes it very apparent, the notion that art is not created in a vacuum is not often in the forefront of public consciousness. When we think about art the immediate association is often with aesthetics or beauty, rather than the social, political or economic climate that gave rise to a particular form artistic expression. And yet most great art at the very least touches on just these kinds of important issues, and the work of the Sahmat collective is a great example of what can transpire when it does.

The context of Sahmat’s artistic work is illustrated in the exhibition by the breadth of materials –  not only is original art on view, but you also have the opportunity to see original articles and publications from the time of the collective’s inception alongside these early art projects. Video footage of their performances is complemented by interviews with artists and organizers. All of these aspects of the exhibition together provide an incredibly rich immersive experience for gallery visitors, one that is not only aesthetic but historical, philosophical and political.

We at the AGM hope that you come away from this exhibition with a respect for the power of art to reflect what is happening in our world, and if necessary, to make change.


The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989 is organized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, and is on view at the Art Gallery of Mississauga from July 24 – October 19, 2014. For more information on the exhibition and a full schedule of events, please visit

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