Khushboo Bharti

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year

This grant will support art historian and visual artist, Khushboo Bharti, to undertake research towards a monograph and exhibition on the impact of the Rajasthan government’s patronage of and policy on public art projects in Jaipur. The monograph will examine the reasons for the surge in state-commissioned public art works over the last decade, and how these reflect a larger political and cultural ideology. The exhibition will include photographs and a map of public art projects in Jaipur.

The election of the BJP government in 2000 saw the completion of many bridge construction projects and the restoration of dilapidated walls in various parts of the city. “This government, for the first time, commissioned multiple contemporary artists from Rajasthan (mainly from Jaipur) to paint some of these bridges and walls,” says Khushboo. Some of the selected artists were traditional miniature painters, others were working in the abstract style. “But the strict directive set by the government on themes meant that artists working with abstract/semi-abstract styles had to undermine themselves to incorporate a figurative form in their work,” says Khushboo. Hence the individual style of the artist was invisible in the public art works commissioned. Instead, they complied with a popular figurative idiom prevalent in the karkhana paintings in and around Jaipur. Along with the study of paintings in public spaces, Khushboo’s research will also examine the two distinct categories under which sculptures were displayed. The first category will comprise of the naturalistic and unostentatious commemorative sculptures. The second category will be highly ostentatious in its approach, with an emphasis on detail.

The work commissioned by each new political party that came into power reflected their political agenda. The Congress party mainly commissioned commemorative sculptures and portraits of important party leaders/social reformers. Under the BJP, however, a large group of sculptures reflected the festivals of Jaipur. The Congress positioned most of the work in front of prominent government building, whereas the BJP stationed them close to heritage sites or on major tourist routes. These state commissioned art works were thus a critical record of a larger political and cultural discourse. Khushboo will interview government officials who facilitated the production of various paintings and sculptures. She will also documente the opinions and concerns of artists/artisans about state-commissioned public art. Khushboo will map out the locations of all state-commissioned art in public spaces. This, along with images of the public artworks, will form part of a curated exhibition. The exhibition will provide a visual record of how public artworks have changed over the last few years. Portraits of artists and craftsmen who created these works will also be displayed. The exhibition will precede the writing and publication of the monograph.