Thursday, October 6—Friday, October 7, 2022
Washington, DC: 9 a.m.–12 p.m. EDT daily
London: 2–5 p.m. BST daily
Berlin: 3–6 p.m. CET daily
New Delhi: 6:30–9:30 p.m. IST daily
From the seventeenth century onward, Western visitors to the South Asian subcontinent were actively acquiring as well as commissioning works of art for private and public collections. A complex network of individuals and institutions encouraged collecting and facilitated the strategic movement of art out of South Asia. In our contemporary moment, histories of South Asian objects in museum collections are under increasing scrutiny, and questions about the art market and museum ethics are at the forefront of people’s minds. While this webinar engages with those important issues, it primarily focuses on documenting the provenance and circulation of South Asian art before 1970 as a way to better understand and reckon with the collections that exist today. Divided into two half-day sessions, this webinar will present scholarly talks and discussions that provide an overview of the field of South Asian provenance research and highlight important resources.
This program is the fifth installment in the series Hidden Networks: Trade in Asian Art, co-organized by the National Museum of Asian Art; Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; and The British Library.
- Najiba H. Choudhury, National Museum of Asian Art
- Joanna M. Gohmann, National Museum of Asian Art
- Christine Howald, Zentralarchiv/Museumfür Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museenzu Berlin
- Malini Roy, The British Library
Day 1: Thursday, October 6, 2022
|9–9:10 a.m. (EST)||Welcome & Opening Remarks
|9:10–9:30 a.m. (EST)||A Brief Overview of Historic Collections, Collectors and Patrons of South Asian Art
|9:30–9:50 a.m. (EST)||Art and Diplomacy in the 21st Century
|9:55–10:40 a.m. (EST)||Collectors: Part I
|10:40–10:50 a.m. (EST)||Break|
|10:50–12:00 p.m. (EST)||Collectors: Part II
Discussion & Wrap–up
Day 2: Friday, October 7, 2022
|9–9:05 a.m. (EST)||Welcome
|9:05–9:25 a.m. (EST)||Shifting Provenance: Colonial Collection and Museum Making in Nineteenth-century South Asia
|9:30–10:30 a.m. (EST)||Research Materials & Object Case Studies: Part 1
|10:30–10:40 a.m. (EST)||Break|
|10:40–11:25 a.m. (EST)||Research Materials & Object Case Studies: Part 2
|11:25–11:55 a.m. (EST)||Provenance and South Asian Museums: A Conversation
|11:55 a.m.–12:00 p.m. (EST)||Closing Remarks
Vrinda Agrawal is a PhD student at the University of Michigan, with a focus on early modern and modern South Asian art. She received her MA degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London (2016), and her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2011). She has held fellowships at the National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC, the Government Museum and Art Gallery in Chandigarh, and the Asia Society and Museum in New York. Her work has appeared in the journal Artibus Asiae as well as in volumes published by Oxford University Press, among others.
Richard Blurton first visited India in 1970, teaching in a Tibetan refugee school in Himachal.He later studied ancient history and archaeology at the University of Birmingham and the University of Cambridge; at the latter he studied under Raymond Allchin. He worked on excavations in Afghanistan and in Karnataka at the Vijayanagara Research Project. He joined the British Museum (BM) in 1986, retiring thirty-two years later as head of the South and Southeast Asia section. He has presented more than fifteen wide-ranging exhibitions on different elements of the culture of South Asia, frequently drawing on the collections of the BM and covering a chronological range from BCE/CE to the present day, and regionally from Tamil Nadu to the Tibet frontier. In the 2000s, he was part of a research project in Arunachal Pradesh that resulted in an exhibition at the BM. More recently, he curated an exhibition and completed fieldwork in Assam on the Vrindavani Vastra textiles. He has published extensively; his books include Hindu Art (1992), Burma and the Art of Lacquer (2000), Bengali Myths (2006), and Krishna in the Garden of Assam (2016). In retirement since 2018, he has recently published India: A History in Objects (2022), based on the BM collections from 1.5 million years ago to the present.
Najiba H. Choudhury is a collections information specialist and provenance researcher at the National Museum of Asian Art. She holds a BA in art history with a focus on South Asian art and a BA in economics, both from George Mason University, as well as an MA in Art History: Collecting & Provenance in an International Context from the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include Asian art collectors, dealers, early museum collections, and provenance research. Her article on Yamanaka & Company and the United States’ seizure of the American collection during World War II was published in the Journal for Art Market Studies. She has a forthcoming essay about Carl W. Bishop and his acquisition of a Buddhist stele.
Matt Cox is curator of Asian art provenance at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He completed his doctoral thesis, The Javanese Self in Portraiture from 1880 to 1955, at the University of Sydney and has since taught subjects on contemporary art at the university. As a curator, he is broadly engaged with historical and contemporary art, working with artists, curators, and academics in Australia and Asia to explore relationships between art history and living communities. He recently curated Passion and procession: art of the Philippines (2017), Playback: Dobell Australian Drawing Biennale 2018 (2018), Walking with gods (2019), A promise: Khaled Sabsabi (2020), and The National 2021: New Australian Art (2021).
Since 2019, Amélie Couvrat Desvergnes has been a freelance paper and book conservator and a researcher based in the Netherlands, specializing in Islamic and Indian manuscripts and works on paper. In 2002, she received her master’s degree in conservation from the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. She worked as an independent professional in France, as a permanent conservator at the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, and at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. She is currently conducting a conservation and research project on the Pahari drawings and miniature paintings from the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden.
Melanie Eastburn is senior curator of Asian art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). She was previously curator of Asian art at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) and has worked at the National Museum of Cambodia and Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. Her exhibitions include Japan supernatural (AGNSW, 2019), Glorious: earthly pleasures and heavenly realms (AGNSW, 2017), Time, light, Japan (AGNSW, 2016), The story of Rama: Indian miniatures from the National Museum, New Delhi (curated by Dr. Vijay Mathur; NGA, 2015), Divine worlds: Indian painting (NGA, 2012), Black robe white mist: art of the Japanese Buddhist nun Rengetsu (NGA, 2007), and FRUiTS: Tokyo street style (Powerhouse Museum, 2002).
Joanna M. Gohmann leads the provenance program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art (NMAA), where she is provenance researcher and object historian. She coordinates NMAA’s ongoing collaboration with the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation’s Museum of Asian Art and Central Archives, co-organizing opportunities for research exchange, most notably the webinar series Hidden Networks: The Trade of Asian Art. Gohmann received her PhD in the history of art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Gohmann is particularly interested in the histories of collecting and the market for Asian art in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France. She has held positions at the Walters Art Museum, the Office of Historic Alexandria, the Ackland Art Museum, and the National Gallery of Art.
Christine Howald, PhD in history, is deputy director of the Zentralarchiv (Central Archive) and provenance researcher for the Asia collections at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin). She also heads the research focus Tracing East Asian Art (TEAA) at Technische Universität Berlin. Her projects focus on the European market for East Asian art and colonial withdrawal contexts in Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She has published widely and is coeditor of two issues of the Journal for Art Market Studies, “Asian Art: Markets, Provenance, History” (Vol. 2, no. 3, 2018) and “Asian Art: The Formation of Collections” (Vol. 4, no. 2, 2020). Since 2020, Howald co-organizes the webinar series Hidden Networks: The Trade of Asian Art.
Jahangir Hussain is the retired curator of the Asiatic Society Heritage Museum and the former director of the Department of Contemporary Art and World Civilization at the Bangladesh National Museum. His thirty-nine-year experience in museums, his training in museology, and his visits to museums in twenty-four countries rendered deep insights into art and culture. He played a key role in establishing various museums and branch museums. He was chairperson of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Bangladesh for three terms and a board member of ICOM Asia-Pacific Alliance for two terms. He is a council member of Language Martyr Abul Barakat Memory Museum and Library, Sunamganj Heritage Museum (2015–16), and the United Nations Association of Bangladesh. He has written three books and several articles.
Nicole Ioffredi completed an MA in Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London, in 2018. Since graduating, she has worked as print room coordinator and cataloguer for the British Library’s Visual Arts Department, which houses the library’s collection of prints, drawings, photographs, and paintings related to South Asia.
Cam Sharp Jones is curator of visual arts at the British Library, focusing on prints, drawings, and photographs from Asia, as well as on British photographic history and contemporary art in relation to the British Library collections. She has previously worked at the British Museum as a project curator, focusing on company school paintings and early Indian coinage, and at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on the archives of the noted nineteenth-century botanist Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker.
Katherine E. Kasdorf is associate curator of arts of Asia and the Islamic world at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). She received her PhD in South Asian art history from Columbia University (2013) and previously held a Wieler-Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellowship at the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore). At the DIA, she collaborated with colleagues on the reinstallation of the Asian collection, opening new galleries in November 2018. She is currently planning an exhibition that will bring together a group of now-dispersed yogini goddess sculptures from Tamil Nadu in southern India, which will explore their many transformations over a thousand-year history.
Paramdip Khera is project manager for the Two Centuries of Indian Print project at the British Library. This project is an international partnership that has digitized and made available online rare and unique books from the South Asia collections. Previously she was project curator at the British Museum, specializing in Indo-Islamic coins and Sikh coins. Paramdip curated The Sikh Fortress Turban exhibition (2011) and published the Catalogue of Sikh Coins in the British Museum (2011). She has also consulted on collections for international museums and was responsible for curating the Currency Gallery at the National Museum of Oman.
Salila Kulshreshtha is a visiting assistant professor of history and art and art history at New York University Abu Dhabi. She received her PhD in history from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Salila has been a Shivdasani Fellow at the Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies (OCHS), University of Oxford (2018), and she has also taught at undergraduate levels in India and the United States. She has also worked as the assistant keeper at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Mumbai. Salila is the author of the book From Temple to Museum: Colonial Collection and Uma Mahesvara Icon in Middle Ganga Valley (Routledge, 2018). The book traces the biographies of religious sculptures beyond the moment of their creation by examining how these images may have moved during different spates of temple renovation and acquired new identities by being relocated either within sacred precincts or in private collections, museums, and art markets, or even desecrated and lost. Salila’s research interests include religious iconography and temple spaces in South Asia, colonial archaeology, history of museums, material culture, and religious history of the Indian Ocean.
Natasha N. Kimmet, PhD, is postdoctoral researcher in the Austrian Science Fund project Cultural Formation and Transformation: Shahi Art and Architecture from Afghanistan to the West Tibetan Frontier at the Dawn of the Islamic Era. In this role, she investigates Buddhist clay-based sculpture and contributes to producing the Shahi Kingdoms Database. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (2021–22) and curatorial fellow at the Rubin Museum of Art (2015–17), where she curated Monumental Lhasa: Fortress, Palace, Temple (2016–17). She has taught in the Kabul Museum Project curatorial program (University of Vienna/National Museum of Afghanistan) since 2011.
Nandita Punj is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History at Rutgers, New Jersey. She is currently pursuing research on early modern Jain manuscript painting from Gujarat and Rajasthan and its specific role in the vernacular visual culture of the period. She is also a research assistant for the digital humanities project Mapping Color in History, led by Professor Jinah Kim at Harvard, and is responsible for art historical research. Nandita holds a PhD in history from the University of Delhi and has worked on various aspects of Jain monastic orders in early medieval western India. Prior to joining Rutgers, she held the position of senior lecturer in the Department of History at Kamala Nehru College, University of Delhi, and taught courses on medieval Indian history.
Melody Rod-ari received her PhD in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles. Currently, she is associate professor and chair of art history at Loyola Marymount University. She is also the Southeast Asian content editor for Smarthistory, as well as an active curator who has organized exhibitions and permanent galleries for the Norton Simon Museum and the University of Southern California Pacific Asia Museum. Her research investigates Buddhist visual culture in Thailand and the history of collecting South Asian and Southeast Asian art in America. Her work has been published by various journals and university presses, including Amerasia Journal and the NUS Press.
Malini Roy is the head of visual arts at the British Library (London) and is responsible for South Asian visual materials as well as British photography. She received her PhD in history of art from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London. Her publications have focused mainly on the subject of later Mughal paintings. She curated and authored 50 x India: The 50 Most Beautiful Miniatures from the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, 2008) and curated Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire and co-authored the accompanying publication with J.P. Losty (British Library, 2012). She is currently working on exhibitions on Hampi (Vijayanagara) and natural history drawings at the British Library.
Kamini Sawhney leads the team at the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) as its first director. Over the past year, she has brought together a young, inspired team that is focused on creating a new museum experience for audiences in India. As the leader of a founding team, Sawhney has helped shape a vision for MAP that seeks to inspire people to interact with art in ways that encourage humanity, empathy, and a deeper understanding of the world we live in. She has been a vocal ambassador for MAP, presenting the institution’s plans and aspirations at various forums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Columbia University, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the American Institute of Indian Studies, and the India Art Fair. In her earlier role, Kamini was the head of the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation—one of the best private collections of modern Indian art—at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum.
Dr. Theresa Sepp is an art historian and researcher at Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich. After completing her doctorate in 2020 at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, she worked as a provenance researcher. Her primary research areas are provenance research on Nazi looted art and art market studies. From March 2021 to February 2022, she was in charge of a project on the Munich auction house Hugo Helbing (1887–1937) at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte. She is currently head of the project Dealers, Collectors and Museums: The Julius Böhler Art Gallery in Munich, Lucerne, Berlin, and New York, 1903–1994, at the same institution.
Jayanta Sengupta is director of Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata, India’s most-visited museum. He has also served as director-in-charge of the Indian Museum, Kolkata, and of the Anthropological Survey of India. Educated at Presidency College, Kolkata, and at the University of Calcutta and the University of Cambridge, he taught history at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and the University of Notre Dame previously. His current research focuses on cultural practices in modern India and on transnational and comparative intellectual history. He is the author of At the Margins: Discourses of Development, Democracy and Regionalism in Orissa (2015) and Those Noble Edifices: The Raj Bhavans of Bengal (2019).
Emma Natalya Stein received her PhD in the history of art at Yale and joined the curatorial staff at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in 2019. She has curated the exhibitions Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain, Prehistoric Spirals: Earthenware from Thailand, and Power in Southeast Asia, and she is the author of the monograph Constructing Kanchi: City of Infinite Temples (Amsterdam University Press, 2021). Dr. Stein has also created a robust online resource for the Southeast Asia collections area that includes an interactive map of sacred sites in diverse landscapes. She is currently codeveloping The Art of Knowing in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas, a new installation of the museum’s South Asian and Southeast Asian collections.
Laura Weinstein is Ananda Coomaraswamy Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Under Vidya Dehejia’s supervision, she received her PhD at Columbia University, where she researched Persian and Urdu manuscripts from the Qutb Shahi sultanate of Golconda. At the MFA she has led the reinstallation of the museum’s South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Islamic art collections and has curated exhibitions including Ink, Silk & Gold: Islamic Art from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Megacities Asia, as well as numerous smaller exhibitions drawing on the MFA’s holdings. Among her most recent publications are MFA Highlights: Arts of South Asia and “Slave, sultan, scholar: Muhammad Qutb Shah and the Royal Library of Golconda.”