By Martha Nodar

Contemporary Indian artists draw on their cultural roots. This acrylic is by Gogi Saroj Pal.

Donald Rubin said he and his wife, Shelley, began to acquire a taste for Himalayan art shortly after they married in the 1970s.

“Shelley and I were strolling down Madison Avenue when we came upon an art gallery,” he said. “There was a painting in the window selling for $3,000, half of all the money we had in the bank at the time. From that moment forward we started to slowly build our collection one piece at a time.”

Rubin, an Oglethorpe University alumnus, returns to the Brookhaven campus this spring for an exhibit of his family’s private collection of Indian art. The exhibit, titled “Goddess, Lion, Peasant, Priest: Modern and Contemporary Indian Art,” opens March 13 at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art. The show ends May 15.

“This private collection is considered to be the finest collection of contemporary Indian art in the U.S.,” said OUMA director Lloyd Nick. “India has had more than 2,000 years of well-developed culture. What is remarkable is that the contemporary art from India draws from its roots. It builds up with variations, but always retaining India’s rich cultural history.”

Now retired from the health care field, Rubin and his wife continue to collect art and oversee their foundation. They founded the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City approximately 12 years ago.

“For me, art is an emotional thing,” Rubin said.

It was this passion for art that brought together the Rubins and Nick. They have collaborated in seven different exhibitions during the last 10 years.

“Our museum’s goal is to expand the cultural experience of the viewers,” Nick said. “We want to expose culture and people who think differently than us, and inspire our visitors to consider thinking more broadly and differently as well. We want our audience to walk away with a unique visual experience; one that they may not find anywhere else in Atlanta.”

The museum also plans to show Indian films and provide lectures on Indian writers while the exhibition is on display, Nick added.

“We hope the community will be excited to learn more about Indian art,” Nick said. “With that in mind, the labels of our exhibition will have a wealth of informational and curatorial material to help the viewers develop a deeper understanding of these compositions.”

A respect for folklore did not go unnoticed by Atlanta artist David Swann when he spent time in India in the mid 1970s. Swann said, Manikal Banjerlee, one of the artists featured in this exhibit, “achieved well-deserved acclaim by successfully blending new techniques with the revival of tradition.”

If you go

An exhibit of contemporary Indian art, “Goddess, Lion, Peasant, Priest: Modern and Contemporary Indian Art,” opens March 13 at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, with a reception from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The exhibit ends May 15. Tibetan scholar Glenn Mullin lectures at the Oglethorpe’s museum on April 7, 7:30 p.m. General admission $5. For more information, visit www.oglethorpe.edu/museum.

“Banjerlee became an eminent watercolorist of his day,” Swann added. “His ‘Mahanth Rana Nath,’ one of his iconic works featured in this exhibit, is uncluttered and simple: a monk in a Tantric position, deep in prayer with his eyes fixed in distant meditation.”

Capturing the mystical ambiance of this exhibit, Swann pondered whether this composition depicts a sense of “calmness or disturbing immediacy.”

“What is he praying for or trying to prevent?,” Swann said. “And where is he?. . . Is he alone in a temple seated before a commanding god or suggestive goddess, or is he outside in the garden among the jasmine and lotus?”

This and other questions could become the topic of conversation when the exhibition opens this weekend.