Frist Presents Immersive Installations by Internationally Acclaimed Multimedia Artist Jitish Kallat

Jitish Kallat: Return to Sender” March 13–June 28, 2020

The Frist Art Museum presents Return to Sender, an exhibition of immersive installations created by the celebrated Indian artist Jitish Kallat. The dramatic works, which engage both mind and body, are inspired by historic messages that reveal the best and worst of humanity. The exhibition will be on view in the Frist’s Upper-Level Galleries from March 13 through June 28, 2020.

Frist Art Museum (PRNewsfoto/Frist Center for the Visual Arts)

Jitish Kallat is a Mumbai native who produces installations, paintings, photographs, and sculptures that often recall historic acts of speech. Return to Sender brings together two works based on missives: Kallat’s widely exhibited work titled Covering Letter (2012), which was selected for India’s pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019), and a new project called Covering Letter (terranum nuncius) (2019). “Kallat’s explorations of the epistolary mode are well suited to our museum as our building is the former main post office of Nashville,” says Frist Art Museum Curator Trinita Kennedy. “From here countless letters have been sent and received.”

Covering Letter is a haunting interactive digital projection of a 1939 typewritten letter from Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler, sent just a few weeks before the outbreak of World War II. The letter is seen on a curtain of traversable dry-fog in the dark. “Gandhi makes a radical appeal for peace, anticipating the brutal bloodshed that the impending war would unleash,” says Kennedy. In the spirit of his doctrine of universal friendship, Gandhi uses the salutation “Dear Friend…” and urges Hitler to resist “reducing humanity to a savage state.” Visitors walk through the screen of descending mist, simultaneously inhabiting and dissipating the moving text. Kallat describes the letter as “a space for self-reflection; a petition from one of the greatest proponents of peace to one of the most violent individuals who ever lived. It can also be read as an open letter from the past destined to carry its message into our turbulent present, well beyond its delivery date and intended recipient.” Kennedy hopes the work will have special resonance in Nashville. “This exhibition marks the first time that Covering Letter has been exhibited in the American South, a place where Gandhi’s ideas about of nonviolent resistance were a vital part of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Covering Letter (terranum nuncius) commemorates and reinvokes the Golden Record, sent as time capsules aboard the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes launched by NASA in 1977. For those expeditions, select sounds, music, and images were placed on two gold-plated phonographic records with the intent to represent life on Earth to any extraterrestrial discoverer. Currently located over 13 billion miles away from planet Earth, they are expected to continue their cosmic journey well beyond the probable extinction of our species and our planet.

Upon entering this installation, visitors will hear a chorus of humanity greeting the universe in 55 languages. There is a projection of a map indicating Earth’s position in our solar system and a large round table with over a hundred images printed on parallax lenses, which are illuminated by lights that pulsate at the rate of human breath. The images, drawn from the Golden Record, include scientific and cosmological diagrams, representations of our genetic makeup and anatomy, as well as other life forms, and architecture, often annotated with measurements. “This is an epic presentation of Earth to an unknown other,” says Kennedy. At a time when we find ourselves in a deeply divided world, Kallat foregrounds these sounds and images for a collective meditation on ourselves as united residents of a single planet.

In Covering Letter (terranum nuncius) there is also a bench shaped like the hands of the Doomsday Clock. This symbolic clock, updated annually by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, represents a hypothetical human-made global catastrophe as midnight, and the proximity of the world to apocalypse as a number of minutes or seconds to twelve. “The Golden Record’s presentation of unity and harmony among earthlings is belied by the actual state of the world,” says Kennedy. “The reality is that our planet hangs in the balance through circumstances of our own making, and the clock bench is an ominous metaphor that differs from the euphoria and optimism associated with the midnight on occasions such as New Year’s Eve.” Woven into the hour are humankind’s worst fears and greatest hopes.

This exhibition marks the first time that Kallat’s two Covering Letter installations will be shown together. Exhibited in darkened galleries and open ended in meaning, they are intended to provoke contemplations of our world and the universe.

Born in India in 1974, Kallat has exhibited his work widely across the world in contexts such as galleries, museums, and biennials. In 2017, the National Gallery of Modern Art (New Delhi) presented a mid-career retrospective of his work titled Here After Here, 1992–2017, curated by Catherine David. Kallat has had solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney), the Art Institute of Chicago, the Bhau Daji Lad Museum (Mumbai), the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and other museums.

He has exhibited widely, at Martin-Gropius-Bau (Berlin), the Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), Serpentine Galleries (London), Tate Modern (London), the Valencia Institute of Modern Art (Spain), and other institutions. His work has been part of the Asian Art Biennial, the Asia Pacific Triennial, the Curitiba Biennial, the Gwangju Biennale, the Havana Biennial, the Kyiv Biennial, and the Venice Biennale, among others. Kallat also served as the curator and artistic director of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale’s second edition, in 2014.

Public Programs

Thursday, March 12

Artist’s Perspective: Jitish Kallat

6:30 p.m., Frist Art Museum Auditorium

Free; first come, first seated

Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat will share a cross section of his work, exploring the many processes, themes, and ideas that recur throughout his wide-ranging artistic practice. Kallat’s works often engage with the ideas of time, transience, sustenance, the ecological, and the cosmological. These explorations take the form of investigative animation videos, photo-works, paintings, sculptures, and elemental drawings that participate in atmospheric phenomena such as wind and rain. In works such as Covering Letter (2012), which will be on view at the Frist, a historic moment is invoked, prompting a contemplation on our present by mediating it through the past. This artist-talk may unfold into a dialogue, as a Q&A session will follow Kallat’s lecture.

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Frist Art Museum Announces 2020 Schedule of Exhibitions

J.M.W. Turner, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, A Survey of Sub-Saharan African Art, Terry Adkins, Rina Banerjee, Jitish Kallat, Mel Ziegler, A Study of Medieval Bologna, and More

The Frist Art Museum has announced its 2020 schedule of exhibitions. In the Ingram Gallery, the year begins with J.M.W. Turner: Quest for the Sublime, an exhibition of works by one of the greatest landscape painters of all time. Designing the New: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Sty J.M.W. Turner: Quest for the Sublime le highlights Mackintosh’s artistic production and locates it within the unique context of late nineteenth-century Glasgow. African Art from the New Orleans Museum of Art features ancestral figures, masks, and ceremonial costumes from one of the most important collections of traditional Sub-Saharan African art in the United States.(The Frist Art Museum is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.)

In the Upper-Level Galleries, an exhibition of works by Jitish Kallat features the dramatic interactive installation Covering Letter. Mel Ziegler: Flag Exchange invites consideration of worn and weathered American flags as symbols of our country’s identity, history, and future. Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World is the first major U.S. survey of the artist’s work and includes installations, sculptures, and paintings that explore themes of multiple identities. Medieval Bologna: Art for a University City focuses on illuminated manuscripts, paintings, and sculptures made in Italy at the end of the Middle Ages.

In the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery, the Frist presents Terry Adkins: Our Sons and Daughters Ever on the Altar, a survey of the late artist’s multidisciplinary practices, which explores the intersection of music, art, and African American history through sculpture, prints, and video; and the text-based works of Bethany Collins, who examines the historic intersection of language and racism in her multimedia practice.

In the Conte Community Arts Gallery, the Frist presents The Nashville Flood: Ten Years Later commemorating the city’s historic natural disaster in photographs and oral histories; We Count: First-Time Voters, which honors the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment with visual representations of diverse group of Nashvillians’ first voting experiences; and 2020 Young Tennessee Artists: Selections from Advanced Studio Art Programs, the eighth biennial showcase of the finest two-dimensional artwork by high school students across the state.

The Frist Art Museum’s 2020 Schedule of Exhibitions (Titles and dates subject to change)

The Nashville Flood: Ten Years Later
January 10–May 17, 2020
Conte Community Arts Gallery (Organized by the Frist Art Museum)


Image Credit: The Cumberland River overflowed its banks in 2010, causing floodwaters to rise around the riverfront area and several blocks of downtown Nashville, May 3 2010. Photo by Larry McCormack. Courtesy of The Tennessean

The Nashville Flood: Ten Years Later will reflect on the historic 2010 flood in which a record-breaking rainfall caused the Cumberland River to crest almost twelve feet above flood stage. Thousands of homes and business were damaged or destroyed, and twenty-six people in the region died, eleven in Nashville. This exhibition will examine the event’s immediate and long-term impact on the city through photographs and excerpts of oral histories from the Nashville Public Library’s flood archive and The Tennessean newspaper with a focus on ten different zip codes, corresponding to Antioch, Belle Meade, Bellevue, Bordeaux, and other locations in addition to downtown Nashville. A section of “now and then” photos will illustrate the recovery, or lack of progress, in each area. Volunteerism, rescue efforts, inequities in disaster relief, and the rebuilding process will be addressed.

J.M.W. Turner: Quest for the Sublime
February 20–May 31, 2020
Ingram Gallery (Organized in cooperation with Tate)


J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). Peace—Burial at Sea, exhibited 1842. Oil on canvas, 34 1/4 x 34 1/8 in. Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856. Photo © Tate, London 2019

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) was a central figure in the Romantic movement and is considered to be among the greatest landscape painters in Western art. Long admired for his ingenuity, originality, and passion, Turner strove to convey the feeling of awe aroused by nature’s immensity and power—its palpable atmospheres, pulsating energy, the drama of storms and disasters, and the transcendent effect of pure light. On view in Quest for the Sublime are seminal oil paintings, luminous watercolors, and evocative sketches selected from Tate’s Turner Bequest. The exhibition conveys highlights of the artist’s career, from vertiginous mountain scenes and stormy seascapes to epic history paintings and mysterious views of Venice.

Terry Adkins: Our Sons and Daughters Ever on the Altar
February 20–May 31, 2020
Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery at the Frist Art Museum and the Carl Van Vechten Art Gallery at Fisk University (Organized by Fisk University Galleries and the Frist Art Museum)

Terry Adkins: Our Sons and Daughters Ever on the Altar is a survey of the late artist’s multidisciplinary practice, which explored the intersection of music, art, and African American history through sculpture, prints, performance, and video. Co-organized and co-presented by the Frist Art Museum and Adkins’s alma mater Fisk University forty-five years after his graduation, the exhibition will feature works influenced by his time at Fisk, where he was mentored by Harlem Renaissance pioneer Aaron Douglas, and signature “recital” installations that pay tribute to musicians Bessie Smith and Jimi Hendrix, both of whom had ties to Tennessee.

Jitish Kallat
March 13–June 28, 2020
Upper-Level Galleries (Organized by the Frist Art Museum)

The internationally acclaimed Indian artist Jitish Kallat (b. 1974) is a Mumbai native who produces installations, paintings, photographs, and sculptures that often recall historic acts of speech. This exhibition features his 2012 work Covering Letter, a haunting interactive digital projection of a 1939 letter from Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler that pleads for peace weeks before the outbreak of World War II. In a darkened gallery, visitors will walk through the mist screen on which the letter is projected, breaking the words apart. Covering Letter was one of the works selected for India’s pavilion at this year’s 58th Venice Biennale.


Mel Ziegler: Flag Exchange
March 13–June 28, 2020
Upper-Level Galleries (Organized by the Frist Art Museum)

Mel Ziegler (b. 1956), the Paul E. Schwab Chair of Fine Arts Professor at Vanderbilt University, is renowned as a social and community engagement artist whose work seeks to foster discourse and the sharing of ideas relating to history, politics, and society. Flag Exchange is an installation of fifty American flags—one from each state—suspended row after row from the ceiling and surrounding a stage where museum visitors and special guests are invited to speak or present performances relating to the meaning of the flag in their own lives. The flags themselves symbolize a nation that has survived tumult and stress. They were collected from 2011 to 2016, when Ziegler periodically drove across the United States with a supply of new American flags, offering a broad spectrum of society—from suburban residents to farmers and small business owners—an opportunity to receive new flags in exchange for their old torn and weathered ones. Displayed in a gallery, the symbolism of rows of tattered, irregular flags encourages reflection on America’s identity, history, and future.


We Count: First-Time Voters
May 23–October 4, 2020
Conte Community Arts Gallery (Organized by the Frist Art Museum)

On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee state legislature voted to ratify the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees and protects women’s right to vote. As the 36th state to approve the amendment, Tennessee completed the two-thirds majority needed to make it the law of the land. We Count: First-Time Voters honors the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote by highlighting the history of voting in the United States and the first voting experiences of a diverse group of Nashvillians. Selected individuals will share their stories with local artists—including Beizar Aradini, Megan Kelley, Jerry Bedor Phillips, Thaxton Waters, and Donna Woodley—who will create visual representations of these voting experiences in a range of mediums.


Designing the New: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style
June 26–September 27, 2020
Ingram Gallery


Charles Rennie Mackintosh Port Vendres—La Ville, ca, 1925–26. Pencil and watercolor on paper 34 7/8 x 26 7/8 x 1 1/8 in. Glasgow Museums: Bought from the Mackintosh Memorial Exhibition, 1933, 1856

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Glasgow Style emerged as the major manifestation of Art Nouveau in Britain and established Glasgow as the Second City of the Empire. This exhibition showcases Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928)—the greatest exponent of the Glasgow Style—as an architect, designer, and artist, and contextualizes his production within a larger circle of designers and craftspeople in the major Scottish city. Mackintosh worked most closely with his wife, Margaret Macdonald (1864–1933); Margaret’s sister, Frances Macdonald (1873–1921); and Frances’ husband, James Herbert McNair (1868–1955). They met as students at the progressive Glasgow School of Art in 1892 and together were known as The Four.


Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. The May Queen: detail of a panel from the Ladies’ Luncheon Room, Ingram Street Tea Rooms, 1900. Gesso, hessian, scrim, twine, glass beads, thread, mother-of-pearl, and tin leaf, 62 1/2 x 179 7/8 in. overall. Glasgow Museums, Acquired by Glasgow Corporation, as part of the Ingram Street Tearooms, 1950. © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection. Courtesy American Federation of Arts

Combining influences from the Arts and Crafts Movement, Celtic Revival, and Japonism, Glasgow artists created their own modern design aesthetic synonymous with sleek lines and emphatic geometries expressed in a wide range of materials. The exhibition presents 165 works of fine and decorative art, including architectural drawings, books, ceramics, furniture, posters, textiles, and watercolors, drawn from Glasgow’s most significant public and private collections.

Designing the New: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style is a touring exhibition co-organized by Glasgow Museums and the American Federation of Arts. Support for the US national tour is provided by the Dr. Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation.

Bethany Collins
June 26–September 27, 2020
Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery (Organized by the Frist Art Museum)

Chicago-based artist Bethany Collins (b. 1984) explores the historic intersection of language and racism in her multimedia practice. She often manipulates and reprints existing written documents—such as the leading daily newspaper in Birmingham, Alabama, during the 1960s or the U.S. Department of Justice’s report on the Ferguson, Missouri, police department—to critique the accuracy and completeness of official records. Collins’s artist book America: A Hymnal (2017) features 100 different versions of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” written since Rev. Samuel F. Smith published the original lyrics in 1831. The multiple reinterpretations of this patriotic anthem—most in support of a particular political or social cause—offer opportunities for reflection on what it means to be an American, a particularly resonant topic during a presidential election year.


Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World
July 24–October 25, 2020
Upper-Level Galleries (Organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the San José Museum of Art.)



Rina Banerjee (b. 1963). Dodo bird, 2013. Acrylic on watercolor paper, 30 x 44 in. Private collection, Miami. © Rina Banerjee. Image courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels

Indian-born artist Rina Banerjee (b. 1963) creates richly layered works made from materials sourced throughout the world to reflect the splintered experience of migration, identity, tradition, and culture often prevalent in diasporic communities. In a single sculpture, one can find African tribal jewelry, colorful feathers, light bulbs, Murano glass, and South Asian antiques. This is the first major survey of Banerjee’s work in the United States and includes large-scale installations, sculptures, and paintings produced over two decades. While the works can be enjoyed as vividly colored and sensuously layered sculptures, they also address themes of multiple identities, feminism, the impact of colonialism, cultural appropriation, and globalization.

African Art from the New Orleans Museum of Art
October 23, 2020–January 17, 2021
Ingram Gallery (Organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art)


Image Credit: Unidentified (Eastern Pende Peoples). Helmet Mask (kipoko), n.d. Wood and pigment, 15 x 11 x 13 1/2 in. The New Orleans Museum of Art: The Robert P. Gordy Collection, 88.46

The exhibition features more than eighty objects, including ancestral figures, masks, ceremonial costumes, headdresses, ritual objects and reliquary guardian figures, drawn from one of the most important collections of traditional sub-Saharan African art in the United States. Created by artists from Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Ghana, these works of art are made from wood, ivory, stone, terra cotta, beadwork and brass. Displayed thematically—with contextual and archival photographs and video—the exhibition illuminates the various ways in which objects facilitate ancestral veneration, as well as the transmission and interconnection of artistic style.


Medieval Bologna: Art for a University City
November 20, 2020–February 14, 2021
Upper-Level Galleries (Organized by the Frist Art Museum)

This is the first museum exhibition in the United States to focus on medieval art made in the northern Italian city of Bologna. Home to the oldest university in Europe, Bologna fostered a unique artistic culture at the end of the Middle Ages. With its large population of sophisticated readers, the city became the preeminent center of manuscript production south of the Alps and it helped bring about a revolution in the medieval book trade. Manuscripts circulated in a thriving market of scribes, illuminators, booksellers, and customers operating mostly outside traditional monastic scriptoria. The university initially specialized in law, and many law books were illuminated in Bologna with brightly colored scenes. University professors enjoyed high social status and were buried in impressive stone tombs carved with classroom scenes.

The approximately 65 objects in the exhibition span from 1250 to 1400, from the first great flowering of manuscript illumination in Bologna to the beginnings of the construction and decoration of the ambitious Basilica of San Petronio in the city’s Piazza Maggiore. Lenders include the Cleveland Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Lilly Library, New York Public Library, and University of Chicago Library.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue with seven essays, and, while it is on view, the Frist Art Museum will host the Andrew Ladis Trecento Conference, a biannual event that brings together historians of medieval and Renaissance art from around the world.