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Nalini Malani: My Reality is Different

With a fierce commitment to pushing boundaries and experimenting and exploring the possibilities of the moving image, Nalini Malani, the recipient of the National Gallery’s first Contemporary Fellowship, supported by Art Fund, has created a deep black exhibition space with one monumental artwork, My Reality is Different, a format coined by the artist as an Animation Chamber.

Image: Nalini Malani in front of her work 'My Reality is Different', 2022; Animation chamber, 9-channel installation, sound: 25.15 mins © Nalini Malani; Photo: Luke Walker
Image: Nalini Malani My Reality is Different, 2022 (detail); Animation chamber, 9-channel installation, sound: 25.12 mins © Nalini Malani; Photo: Luke Walker

Encompassing over forty metres of wall, the 25 striking new animations immerse the viewer in a panorama of nine large video projections, played in a continuous loop. These animations are based on an idiosyncratic selection by Malani from famous paintings in the National Gallery and the Holburne Museum, Bath, this year’s partner museum for the Gallery’s Contemporary Fellowship, and where the exhibition can be seen until 8 January 2023.

Classical stories have been transformed by hand-drawn animations, made using an iPad, that reveal and conceal different aspects of the paintings in both collections to rediscover them from an alternative, and critical point of view.

Image: Nalini Malani My Reality is Different, 2022 (detail); Animation chamber, 9-channel installation, sound: 25.12 mins © Nalini Malani; Photo: Luke Walker
Image: Nalini Malani My Reality is Different, 2022 (detail); Animation chamber, 9-channel installation, sound: 25.12 mins © Nalini Malani; Photo: Luke Walker

With astute observation and skilled criticality, Malani disrupts what and whose heritage is being passed on for future generations. She creates agency where before there was none.

Nalini Malani says: ‘I really appreciated the mission of the Holburne Museum, Bath, captured in the strapline 'Changing Lives Through Art'. With this new animation chamber I make in a cross cultural/historical dialogue visible what happens with my gaze over these classical Western paintings. These works of art are not sacrosanct. They have to be looked at in a different way. I have the feeling it is a pressing necessity as Our Stories have to be Retold, to give us a chance to become a more humane society.’

By overlapping the nine video projections and showing the animations of different length in a loop without syncing them, Malani has chosen to go beyond the Western linear view. As a result, there is an endless change of juxtapositions and interaction of the images, allowing the spectator to co-create their own meanings. Malani says: I address the spectators as an "active audience", where they have the capability to be dynamic co-creators and co-producers of meaning, rather than passive receptors.'

Embodying the role of the artist as a social activist, Malani puts the Western canon under pressure in these animations where traditional art history and its European figures are no longer the only source of meaning.

Integrated in each of the nine loops of the projections Malani has made a fictitious portrait of the marginalised in society. The faces of these people, whose labour underpins the economies that connect us across the globe, disappear behind colourful candlestick stock-market charts, and graphic examples of the complex financial systems.

The video is accompanied by a soundscape in which we hear the voice of Cassandra, a prophet from ancient Greek myth who foretells the truth but is never believed, amidst an undercurrent of a large sailing ship under the rain and storm of an ocean, combined with music references to the patriotic song ‘Rule Britannia!’ Cassandra’s brutal vision of the fall of Troy is voiced by Malani’s longtime collaborator and friend Alaknanda Samarth (1941–2021). Malani says: Tapping into the Cassandra in each of us leads to profound insights and truths, forming a new path for the unfinished business of the women’s revolution. Without women there is no future.’

The title of the exhibition, 'Nalini Malani: My Reality is Different - National Gallery Contemporary Fellowship with Art Fund', is drawn from a phrase often associated with Lewis Carroll’s 'Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass' in which the Cheshire Cat is claimed to have said: ‘I’m not crazy, my reality is different from yours.’

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated 144-page hard-cover catalogue with newly commissioned articles by Mieke Bal, Will Cooper, Zehra Jumabhoy, Daniel Herrmann, Nalini Malani and Priyesh Mistry.

The National Gallery Contemporary Fellowship is supported by Art Fund, which enabled an open call to public collecting institutions outside London to become the partner institution. The National Gallery’s Modern and Contemporary Advisory Panel selected the Holburne Museum in Bath as the partner institution for the inaugural Fellowship. The Holburne Museum will have the opportunity to acquire a work which has been created as part of the Fellowship.

Image: Nalini Malani My Reality is Different, 2022 (detail); Animation chamber, 9-channel installation, sound: 25.12 mins © Nalini Malani; Photo: Luke Walker

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, London, says: 'Nalini Malani fixes her gaze on paintings from the Western canon in the National Gallery and in our partner museum, The Holburne in Bath, to offer a visually striking multi-layered critique of the tradition they represent and many of the assumptions that underpin it.’

Daniel F. Herrmann, National Gallery Curator of Modern and Contemporary Projects, says: ’While criticising a Western male hegemony, from the perspective of a Cassandra, Malani’s animation chamber, as she calls this form of art, never sacrifices the beauty and the aesthetics in her all-inspiring alternative new visions of the world. With My Reality is Different, Malani activates Western cultural memory to take a contemporary responsibility by making an unusual form of new art in dialogue with the art of the past.’

Dr Chris Stephens, Director of the Holburne Museum, Bath, says: ‘It is a great honour for the Holburne to have been selected as the inaugural partner in the National Gallery’s Contemporary Fellowship programme and to be working with an artist of Nalini Malani’s stature. I cannot think of a more appropriate artist to engage with the Holburne’s eclectic collection that is replete with transnational stories and conversations. We are deeply grateful to the National Gallery, Art Fund and, of course, Nalini for this wonderful opportunity.’

Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, says: ‘Our public collections have an enduring power to inspire, as demonstrated by Nalini Malani’s artistic transformations of greatly loved works from the National Gallery and Holburne Museum. Collaboration between museums is more important than ever post pandemic, and we are delighted that audiences in both Bath and London will be able to enjoy new work by such an exceptional international artist.’

The National Gallery’s Contemporary Fellowship is supported by Art Fund, with additional support from Dasha Shenkman OBE

Nalini Malani is the first artist to be chosen for this Fellowship which has been created as part of the Gallery’s Modern and Contemporary Programme

The National Gallery’s Contemporary Fellowship is supported by Art Fund, with additional support from Dasha Shenkman OBE

The Leading Philanthropic Supporter of the National Gallery Modern and Contemporary Programme is SP Lohia Foundation


The National Gallery Modern and Contemporary Programme is supported by

The Sunley Room exhibition programme is supported by the Bernard Sunley Foundation

Notes to editors

Press View: Tuesday 28 February

Image captions

Nalini Malani in front of her work 'My Reality is Different', 2022; Animation chamber, 9-channel installation, sound: 25.15 mins © Nalini Malani; Photo: Luke Walker

Nalini Malani 'My Reality is Different', 2022 (detail); Animation chamber, 9-channel installation, sound: 25.15 mins © Nalini Malani; Photo: Luke Walker

'Nalini Malani: My Reality is Different – National Gallery Contemporary Fellowship with Art Fund'

The National Gallery, London 2 March – 11 June 2023, Sunley Room, Admission free

Holburne Museum, Bath, until 8 January 2023 Admission £11 (£12.50 with Gift Aid) for the permanent collection and all temporary exhibitions, 18 and under Free.

About Nalini Malani

Nalini Malani, born in 1946 in Karachi, British India, lives and works in Mumbai, India. Due to Partition her family were forced to leave their homes as refugees. The imposed poverty in a land with unfamiliar languages and cultures made the relocation extremely difficult. Graduating from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, in 1969, her practice began with photography, experimental film and abstract painting.

For over five decades Malani’s work has increasingly questioned conventions of painting and drawing, to be able to reach a wider audience and speak up against the rise of political oppression. As the pioneer of video art in India, she created new ways of immersive video installations, which she coined ‘video plays’, her signature ‘video/shadow plays’ and ‘animation chambers’. In these and other experimental art forms, such as her collaborative theatre plays, the ephemeral wall drawings /erasure performances and multi-panel reverse paintings, Malani’s focus has been consistently on themes of transnational politics, the ramifications of globalisation, and the critical examination of gender roles. Malani’s work considers the human and universal aspects of conflict, giving a voice to the stories of those marginalised by history – particularly women.

Since 2000, Malani has had five retrospectives; Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli (2018); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2017); Kiran Nader Museum of Art, New Delhi (2014); Museé cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne (2010) and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem (2004), and over fifteen museum solo exhibitions including M+, Hong Kong (2022), Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague (2021), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2021), Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona (2020); Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Mumbai (2020); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, (2016); the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2012), and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2002). In 2019 she won the Joan Miró Prize, Barcelona; in 2016 the Asian Art Game Changers Award, Hong Kong; in 2014 the St. Moritz Art Masters Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2013 the Fukuoka Arts and Culture Prize.

About the National Gallery’s Modern and Contemporary Programme

For nearly two centuries, the National Gallery’s Collection has provided inspiration to contemporary artists. The National Gallery’s Modern and Contemporary Programme continues this tradition through exhibitions, displays, commissions, and residencies. 2019 saw the unveiling of Bridget Riley’s monumental wall painting 'Messengers' in the Gallery’s Annenberg Court. Other exhibitions within the programme have included 'Kehinde Wiley: The Prelude', 'Sea Star: Sean Scully at the National Gallery' (13 April – 11 August 2019), 'Young Bomberg and the Old Masters' (27 November 2019 – 1 March 2020) and 'Rachel MacLean: The Lion and The Unicorn' (29 November 2018 – 3 February 2019). As well as the inaugural Contemporary Fellowship of Nalini Malani there have also been two National Gallery Artists in Residence, a new residency supported by the Contemporary Art Society and aimed at mid-career artists which replaces the Gallery’s previous Associate Artist scheme. The first Artist in Residence in 2019-20 was Rosalind Nashashibi and the second is Ali Cherri whose residency exhibition is soon to open with this year’s residency partner the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry. The 2022-3 Artist in Residence (with residency partner the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter, Devon) is Céline Condorelli and the exhibition of her new work will be seen at the National Gallery from 13 September 2023 to 7 January 2024.  

About the Holburne Museum, Bath

The Holburne Museum’s mission statement is 'Changing Lives Through Art', signalling its commitment to opening up the enjoyment of art to people of all ages and from every walk of life. The Holburne was founded in 1882 with the gift of Sir William Holburne’s collection of 16th- and 17th-century Italian and Dutch paintings, silver, sculpture, furniture, porcelain and diverse objets d’art of national and international significance. That founding gift has been augmented with a collection of 18th-century paintings by such artists as Gainsborough, Lawrence, Ramsay, Stubbs and Zoffany. Set within the historic Sydney Pleasure Gardens, the Museum reopened in May 2011 after ambitious renovations and with a new, award-winning extension by Eric Parry Architects. The Holburne has since secured a national reputation as an outstanding museum which holds critically acclaimed exhibitions. Its programme of exhibitions, commissions and events sets out to bring to Bath great art of all periods and from around the world, seeking to set the art of the past in dialogue with contemporary practice in exciting and dynamic new ways.

About Art Fund

Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. It provides millions of pounds every year to help museums to acquire and share works of art across the UK, further the professional development of their curators, and inspire more people to visit and enjoy their public programmes. Art Fund is independently funded, supported by Art Partners, donors, trusts and foundations and the 130,000 members who buy the National Art Pass, who enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places, 50% off major exhibitions, and receive Art Quarterly magazine. Art Fund also supports museums through its annual prize, Art Fund Museum of the Year. The winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021 is Firstsite in Colchester. National Art Pass holders receive 50% exhibitions at The Holburne Museum.

SP Lohia Foundation and Aarti Lohia

Founded in 2016 by S.P. Lohia, SPLF is an international charitable trust based in the U.K. and operating in all spheres of public interest and well-being. Under the direction of Aarti Lohia, SPLF supports some of the most inspiring philanthropic organisations and institutions in the U.K. and internationally and aims to provide solutions, opportunities, and hope for a fairer world for everyone.

Aarti is a Founding Patron and Trustee of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and the leading philanthropic partner for developing the India Foundation for the Arts Archive (IFA archive) based in Bangalore, India. She also sits on the Victoria & Albert Museum's International Council; The South Asian Acquisitions Committee at Tate Modern, the Serpentine Gallery's International Council; the British Fashion Council Foundation; and the David Rockefeller Council at MoMA.

About the Hiscox Group

Hiscox is a global specialist insurer, headquartered in Bermuda and listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:HSX). Our ambition is to be a respected specialist insurer with a diverse portfolio by product and geography. We believe that building balance between catastrophe-exposed business and less volatile local specialty business gives us opportunities for profitable growth throughout the insurance cycle. It’s a long-standing strategy which in 2018 saw the business deliver a profit before tax of $137.4 million in a challenging year for insurers.

The Hiscox Group employs over 3,300 people in 14 countries and has customers worldwide. Through the retail businesses in the UK, Europe, Asia and the US, we offer a range of specialist insurance for professionals and business customers as well as homeowners. Internationally traded, bigger ticket business and reinsurance is underwritten through Hiscox London Market and Hiscox Re & ILS.

Our values define our business, with a focus on people, quality, courage and excellence in execution. We pride ourselves on being true to our word and our award-winning claims service is testament to that. For more information, visit

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