Akansha Rastogi

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year

This grant supports Akansha Rastogi to document and study ‘landmark’ exhibitions of contemporary art in post-independent India. While focusing on collections, archived materials and databases, it presents an opportunity to reflect upon the chains of artistic and cultural production by looking at how the perception and understanding of exhibition spaces and audiences have evolved in this period. The study aims to formulate a methodology that could be used to map patterns, repetitions and evolutions of exhibitions and historicise the role of a curator in the Indian context. The project would also highlight the changing mechanisms for support and sponsorship of art production and dissemination that have evolved in this time.

The focal area of the research is to create and establish frameworks for studying exhibition histories. The key questions that this project aims to address are:

  • What is the definition of an ‘exhibition’? What does it imply to make exhibitions an object of study?
  • What will be the fundamental framework for looking at the history of art through history of exhibitions?
  • How has exhibition making as a form of art practice evolved and changed the perception of art now?
  • Do exhibition histories serve any purpose of recalling the past exhibitions to set a context for current arts practice?

Exhibitions are generally seen as opportunities or shared sites for political and social formation, platforms of navigation and negotiation by art practitioners. This project is intent on documenting, annotating and highlighting the bonds between these cultural producers and viewing exhibitions as a way of reading how different collectivities evolved in the art scenario of post-independent India. The project attempts to elaborate on elements like evolution of spatial dynamics in art exhibitions, display methods, selection mechanism and representation sought in exhibition spaces. The last decade of Indian contemporary art has witnessed drastic changes in all spheres of exhibition making. It has ventured into the global domain. The research will study the impact of changes that these experiences have brought about in the exhibition model in terms of conceptualisation and display.

Akansha has planned to split her research work into three segments - a) exhibitions between 1947 - 1970s, b) exhibitions between 1980 - 1990s, and c) exhibitions in the 1990s and 2000s. Each phase will be a period of six months. The first phase will focus on rigorous documentation of exhibitions and art events in major Indian art centers. Akansha will meet and interview different art critics, curators, art historians and artists in different cities for this part of her work. The second phase will focus on assimilating and arranging the collected data into an accessible form that triggers and facilitates new areas of research. At this stage, Akansha will share her work and research methodologies through a series of talks in Delhi. The final phase of the project will focus on writing a monograph length essay on exhibition histories of Indian art. The essay will analyze the collated data and also be a commencing point for an envisaged book on exhibition histories in India.

While the history of modern art in India hitherto has looked particularly at the exhibits and not the exhibitions as significant markers of history, Akansha’s project will undoubtedly be an important contribution to the field providing an alternative way of looking at art through the prism of exhibition histories.