The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired two major works by the late Pakistani artist and activist Lala Rukh (1948–2017). Rukh’s estate also gifted the institution a group of six posters that were created during the artist’s years with the Women’s Action Forum (WAF), the Pakistani women’s rights organization that she cofounded in 1981, to complement its purchase of the collage Mirror Image, 1, 2, 3, 1997, and the digital animation Rupak, 2016.

The Met is the first museum in the United States to acquire Rukh’s work. The acquisition was made with funds from the Tia Collection, a private collection based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in support of the Met’s efforts to grow its holdings of works by South Asian female artists. The Tia Collection’s support of the Museum began in 2018 with the gift of Ranjani Shettar’s installation Seven ponds and a few raindrops, 2017.

Mirror Image 1, 2, 3 was made in response to the destruction of the Babri Masjid Mosque in Ayodhya, India, in 1992, and the violence that ensued. In the aftermath of the illegal demolition of the religious site, which is believed by some Hindus to be the birthplace of Hindu deity Rama, riots took place for years in numerous cities including Mumbai, Dhaka, and Lahore. To create the work, Rukh cut out newspaper images of the riots and blackened them, using charcoal and other media. She then attached them in pairs to sheets of grid paper. 

The single-channel video Rupak, the artist’s final work, reflects her preoccupation with Hindustani classical music, a source of inspiration throughout her career. Commissioned for Documenta 14, Rupak is a stop-motion animation built around the percussive scheme of a Hindustani classical taal called rupak, which has a seven-beat structure. Musician Sunny Justin composed the 12-second rupak taal table solo that forms the basis of the animation and Rukh transcribed the beats to paper over a two-month period by drawing the sounds of the rupak taal on a grid in a dot-based system.


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