Asia Art Archive

Extending Arts Practice

Grant Period: Over four months

Having set up its first Indian research post in 2007, the Asia Art Archive (AAA) has over the years undertaken a number of research initiatives in the country including awarding a grant to Vidya Shivadas in 2009 to critically survey the field of art criticism in India and supporting a digitisation project of the personal archives of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram in 2010. AAA is also digitising the personal archives of K G Subramanyan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Ratan Parimoo, and Jyoti Bhatt, in Baroda.

Since 2011, AAA has also been working on a very significant project to put together a bibliography of art writing in various Indian languages including English (from the late 19th century). AAA has already collated over 10,000 entries for the annotated bibliography, which they wish to launch during a two-day colloquium in Delhi. Supported by IFA, it is a discourse building platform under the Extending Arts Practice programme. Freely accessible in digital format, the project is the first of its kind to provide a consolidated database of published material on modern and contemporary Indian art. It will be of immense relevance to students, scholars, researchers, artists, writers, and the art community at large.

The proposed two-day public colloquium to be held on Feb 14th, 15th February at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, will bring together scholars as well as researchers of AAA’s Bibliography Project to question the role of art writing in India. Given the crux of the project one of the objectives of the colloquium is to ask what constitutes the vernacular in art history in India. The colloquium has been organised in a way that will delve into specific contexts of art writing, its practitioners, recurrent themes, and the dynamics between writers and the field.

This is a crucial project to support under the EAP programme because it not only picks up from where IFA’s Arts Reader project trailed off, but promises to highlight many significant nuances in the practice of writing about the arts across Indian languages, revealing in the process, the extent to which such practices flourished (or perished) at both regional and national levels. More importantly, it holds the promise of initiating a conversation on regional linguistic and ‘vernacular’ frameworks available to engage with arts practice in a critical manner. This is of particular significance to IFA as one of the crucial concerns that has plagued our deliberations around the few proposals we receive in languages other than English. Moreover, it will possibly open the doors to a longer-term collaboration between AAA and IFA.