John Lennon once described her as “the world’s most famous unknown artist: Everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does."

More known for her marriage to Lennon, once music’s most hated woman, the experimental artist who took a fly for an alter ego, an avant-garde film-maker, a peace activist: She’s Yoko Ono. And she’s coming to India.

Activist artist: Ono with her famous installation Wish Tree.(Christopher Furlong,Getty Images)

Indian audiences will get a taste of her art as the Vadehra Art Gallery (VAG) hosts Ono’s works for the first time in the country. Titled Our Beautiful Daughters, it will include a gallery exhibition, a performance by the artist and public art projects in Delhi.

Ono’s connection to the Fluxus movement, a loose association of Dada-inspired avant-garde artists that developed in the early 1960s, is significant in the art world for inviting participation from the audience. Most of her projects in India will depend wholly on such audience participation.

In keeping with her long-running interest in feminism and women’s issues, Our Beautiful Daughters brings into focus the issue of gender. Ono has created a new installation that will put the spotlight on some of the challenges women face today. The exhibition will also recall seven or eight of the artist’s legendary instruction-based works. My Mommy Is Beautiful, for instance, invites viewers to cover the walls with messages and photographs of their mothers as a monumental dedication to motherhood.

Since 2006, VAG has broadened its engagement to hold exhibitions of international artists with acclaimed figures like Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. “We thought it would be really interesting to follow these exhibitions with a much larger-scale project involving an iconic conceptual artist like Yoko Ono. We were able to get an introduction to her and, of course, seized the opportunity to invite her to Delhi," says Parul Vadehra, director, VAG. The works are for exhibition only, not for sale.

There will also be an interactive musical performance, titled To India, with Love, by Ono on 15 January. The event will be held at the Stein Auditorium in the India Habitat Centre (entry is strictly by passes).

Vidya Shivadas, VAG’s in-house curator, who has been working closely with Ono’s team for the exhibition’s ongoing installation, says the performance is the highlight of the artist’s visit, given her long career in performance since the 1960s. “Yoko Ono works across genres– with music, text, film. We are showing a range of her work – from early films and performances to more recent participatory projects and a special installation. There is a lot to see!"

A parallel exhibition titled The Seeds will showcase some of Ono’s earlier works. Excerpts of her films, sound pieces, her collaborations with Lennon and other Fluxus artists, photographs of performances and installations will present a composite picture of Ono’s dynamic career.

Our Beautiful Daughterswill be on exhibit from 13 January-10 March at Vadehra Art Gallery, D-178, Okhla Phase 1, New Delhi. The parallel exhibition, The Seeds,will run at Vadehra Art Gallery, D-53, Defence Colony, New Delhi.

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