Bharti Kher's Ancestor at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park

Public Art Fund to unveil Bharti Kher: Ancestor a towering, mythical mother sculpture at the southeast entrance to Central Park.

Bharti Kher's Ancestor at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park

Public Art Fund is pleased to present Ancestor, an 18-foot tall patinated bronze sculpture by New Delhi and London-based artist Bharti Kher. The powerful new work will grace Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast entrance to Central Park beginning September 8, 2022. Depicting a universal mother figure linking our cultural and personal pasts and futures, Ancestor is Kher’s most ambitious work to date. The sculpture stems from the artist’s ongoing “Intermediaries” series in which Kher reassembles small, broken clay figurines of humans, animals, and mythical beings into hybrid figures that defy a fixed identity. Brought to life at a monumental scale, Ancestor embodies the complexity and potential of the “Intermediaries” and of Indic and global traditions of creator deities that challenge identities by bringing together male and female into a single philosophical form. Ancestor, however, is a resolutely feminine figure. Adorned with the heads of her 23 children that extend from her body, she embodies multiculturalism, pluralism, and interconnectedness. They manifest a sense of belonging and celebrate the mother as a keeper of wisdom and the eternal source of creation and refuge.

Bharti Kher’s impressive new sculpture, Ancestor, is exactly the kind of monument we need in the 21st century. It is a deeply personal expression of hybridity and global identity that invites a dialogue about the importance of honouring our ancestors and fostering cultural exchange. - Daniel S. Palmer, Public Art Fund Adjunct Curator

Connecting New Delhi and New York City, Ancestor reflects Kher’s cross-cultural identity and her appreciation for India’s rich material culture. The sculpture proposes a genealogical, spiritual, and metaphysical inquiry into the meaning of society and is a sensitive investigation into our relationship with progeny, self, and memory. Ancestor articulates the artist’s ongoing consideration of the female body in history and the nature of corporeality as it moves between the sacred and profane. The artist’s unique approach to materiality in her choice to hand paint and patina bronze to look and feel like time-worn clay reflects the unresolved state between permanence and fragility. From scanning and enlarging the original maquette, to casting, fabricating, patina, and hand painting this 18-foot sculpture, UAP's team in New York was engaged throughout the design coordination and construction of Kher’s Ancestor.

Draped in a sari, with a small child hiding behind its folds, and her fantastical hairstyle of a multi-lobed bun with braid, the mother stands tall at the entrance to Central Park. In contrast to monuments that glorify historical figures and commemorate traditional symbols of authority, Ancestor enters the public space as a powerful female force paying homage to the generations before and after her.

I invite viewers to leave their wishes, dreams, and prayers with Ancestor; and to pass on their wisdom of living and love to the next generation. She is the keeper of all memories and time. A vessel for you to travel into the future, a guide to search and honor our past histories, and a companion–right here, right now–in New York City. - Bharti Kher

Bharti Kher: Ancestor is on view from September 8, 2022 through August 27, 2023 at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park. To learn more about the exhibition, visit the Public Art Fund website.

In-process image of 'Ancestor' by Bharti Kher, 2022 Photo by Chris Roque Courtesy of the artist, UAP, Chris Roque, Public Art Fund.

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