This fall, the Art Institute of Chicago offers a glimpse of one of the world’s most intimate and private religious traditions. Bringing together over 100 artworks from private and public collections in India and the United States, Gates of the Lord: The Tradition of Krishna Paintings is the first major U.S. exhibition to explore the unique visual culture of the Pushtimarg, a Hindu denomination from Western India.
The exhibition takes its visitors through a year in Nathdwara, in which the daily worship of Shrinathji is characterized by the changing of seasons and a bustling festival calendar. Gallery by gallery, the viewer is introduced to the pichvais used as backdrops for Shrinathji in his shrine, each uniquely suited to a particular season or festival. The accompanying miniature paintings offer further insight into the Pushtimarg sect: its mode of veneration, history, and important priests and patron families, while festival and devotional music, a shrine reconstruction, and touchscreen kiosks that allow visitors to page through religious manuscripts, an artist sketchbook, and a historic photo album enhance the experience of the Pushtimarg’s rich culture. The exhibition ends with an exploration of the works, sketches, and observations of prominent 20th- and 21st-century Nathdwara artists who have kept the painting tradition flourishing through the present day.