Bharti Kher Knighted Prestigious French Cultural Award
By Vasavi Seethepalli
On March 23, multidisciplinary artist Bharti Kher was conferred with France’s highest cultural award, Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres—also known as the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters—for her contributions to the landscape of contemporary art.
Francois Richier, France’s ambassador to India, bestowed the award to Kher at a New Delhi ceremony, during which he praised the 46-year-old artist and touted her as “a global icon.” In an email, the artist told ArtAsiaPacific that since being granted the honor she is “ . . . super charged these days and have lots of new works in the making.”
London-born Kher studied painting at Newcastle Polytechnic. She has exhibited extensively in both solo and group shows internationally, including at Paris’s Centre Pompidou in 2011, and Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum in 2014.
Celebrated for her large-scale sculptures, photography and painting, Kher's artwork addresses issues of gender roles, Indian traditions and the widening gap between nature and technology in contemporary society. Early in her practice Kher began appropriating the bindi—a decorative dot worn on the foreheads of women in India and other South Asian countries—which is her signature motif that she has since consistently used to subvert traditional systems, as well as sociopolitical associations, and to trigger a new way of seeing the world.
Established in 1957, the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is given out three times a year to figures who have made significant contributions to society in the fields of art, culture and literature. Upon receiving the knighthood, and when asked about future collaborations with the French government, Kher replied, “I would [be interested]—if the project is new and exciting, and if I can give something meaningful back.”