Asia Art Archive started a digitisation project in November 2011 to broadly map the various practices that shape the field of contemporary art and the forms of knowledge around it through the lens of art pedagogy. Art schools in South Asia played a central role during the 19th and 20th centuries to advance new attitudes and sensibilities toward the making and showing of art following its colonial history. They served as catalysts not only for education, but also as sites of exhibitions and as publishers of books and magazines—collectively paving a way for artistic exchange and collaboration, and reshaping the field with continuous experimentation.
The faculty of Fine Arts in Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, stands out as one such art school. Founded in 1950, subsequent to India becoming an independent republic, the art college emerged with an aspiration to think of art anew in post-colonial India. While a number of artists were involved in building the institution, AAA focused on the personal archives of four influential art practitioners who taught at the school since its establishment. Professors K.G. Subramanyan, Jyoti Bhatt, Ratan Parimoo, and Gulammohammed Sheikh made significant contributions in the world of art through artworks, literature, art writing, curation, new methods and ideas for pedagogy, and institution building. Integral to the establishment and development of the college, their careers and personalised visions show their thoughts on what art could be, and how art education could contribute to the field.
The Baroda Archives project is an in-depth excavation of documents that sheds light on the artists’ art practices, written articulations of their ideas, contributions to art education and crafting of curricula, and their wider influence in the field of art. The 40,000+ digitised documents in this project focus on, but are not limited to, the decades from 1950s to 1990s primarily due to their physical vulnerability. The current digital archive includes artwork images, exhibition folders, letters and correspondence, art magazines, research initiatives, artist protests, exhibition catalogues, diaries and sketchbooks, manuscripts and essays, poems and short stories, photo-documentation of the ‘Living Traditions of India’, and documentation of the faculty’s early years.
The project is divided into the four artists’ collections. Material which is not authored by them is housed where the documents were found. The published and unpublished digitised documents in this project are selections by Asia Art Archive, and do not represent the entirety of the artists’ collections. The copyright over the digitised documents rests with their respective copyright holders, which not only includes the four artists, but also third parties. AAA makes these documents accessible online only after the copyrights permissions have been cleared. While a number of documents are already available for reference on the AAA website, more documents will be made accessible to users once copyrights permissions are cleared.
|Jyoti Bhatt Archive||Ratan Parimoo Archive||Gulammohammed Sheikh Archive||K.G. Subramanyan Archive|
In charting out the various lines of inquiry that this project maps, users can find substantial material on the following areas:
With the establishment of the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda in 1950, a new moment for the visual arts began as artists developed syllabi relevant to the needs of post-colonial India. Several artists who studied and taught in the Faculty travelled widely, and returned with new ideas on art education as offered in other parts of India and the world. This project captures the enchantment of that period when pedagogy and experimentation coalesced to think about art afresh.
Fine Arts Syllabi | Seminar Brochures | College Prospectuses | Fine Arts Fair Photographs | Guest Lectures by Peter de Francia | Art History | Bibliographies | Inception of Art History Department’s Archive | College Journals | Research Initiatives
This project covers an array of published and unpublished documents that reflect the history of art writing during the time: from philosophical and aesthetic speculations to poetry and prose, from declarative manifestoes to intimate letters of self-reflection, from publishing self-organised magazines to keeping diaries. As prolific writers, the written work of the four artists is well covered, including a selection of published and unpublished documents of other writers they collected over many decades.
Vrishchik Magazine | Contra’66 | Essay and Lecture Manuscripts | Newspaper Clippings | Magazine Articles | Catalogues Essays | Art Criticism | Artist Diaries | Art and Literature | Multi-Lingual Art Histories| Artistic Research
Artworks and artist biographies have typically served to build 20th century’s art history, but exhibitions have also played a significant role in driving contemporary urgencies and announcing artist solidarities. This project opens up numerous exhibition folders that hold catalogues, exhibition photographs, brochures, price lists, newspaper reviews, letters, and correspondence leading up to the exhibitions. Some exhibition folders are artist-led and self-organised, while others are larger in scale, including museum retrospectives and triennales.
The Baroda Group of Artists (mid-1950s to mid-1960s) | Group 1890 (1963) | Artists Protests Against Lalit Kala Akademi (1969–1973) | Amrita Sher-Gil (1972) | Ananda K. Coomaraswamy Centenary (1977) | New Contemporaries (1978)
Living Traditions of Indian Art
A number of government institutions and museums dedicated to rural arts and crafts emerged in India soon after independence. Artists also invested considerable attention to the contexts, techniques, and forms of traditional art practices. This engagement brought new questions on how to define tradition in the 20th century; how to reconcile the relationship between modern and traditional art; how to support a sustainable environment for traditional arts; and how these disappearing art forms might be preserved. Artists in Baroda were particularly interested in these questions, which translated into various institutional initiatives, Fine Art Fairs, research projects, and artist exchanges and workshops with artisans from rural contexts. This project offers a unique archive documenting these efforts.
Essay Manuscripts by K.G. Subramanyan | 30,000+ Photographs by Jyoti Bhatt | Letters & Correspondence | All India Handloom Board | World Crafts Council | Artist Proposals | Design | Rural Arts | Government Initiatives
The faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda practiced during a period of time after World War II when global networks and flows of knowledge and power had realigned, creating different compulsions for geo-political allegiances, which affected the artists in various ways. The four personal archives contain diverse documents pertaining to student scholarships, artist travels, friendships, and collaborations—revealing how the artists interpreted their experiences into their art practice and instruction.
Fulbright Scholarship | Commonwealth Scholarship | J.D. Rockefeller III | Festival of India Exhibitions Overseas | Royal College of Art | Courtauld Institute | Artist Travels | Travel Reports | Art Pedagogy | Collaborations | Exhibition Histories
This digitisation project would not have been possible without the generosity of numerous friends, colleagues, and institutions.
First and foremost, AAA is very grateful to Jyoti Bhatt and Jyotsna Bhatt, Ratan Parimoo and Naina Dalal, Gulammohammed Sheikh and Nilima Sheikh, and K.G. Subramanyan and Mrs. Uma P. for allowing AAA access to the documents in their respective homes, for their hospitality, and for their time.
AAA also wishes to extend its thanks to members of the art community who have continually offered invaluable support, guidance, information, and stories pertaining to the rich histories the documents represent. To Mahendra Pandya, Narendra Sant, Raghav Kaneria, Krishna Chhatpar, R. Sivakumar, Shubha Choudhury, Belinder Dhanoa, Deeptha Achar, Santhosh Dash, Parul Dave Mukherjee, Shivji Panikker, Deepak Kannal, Vasudevan Akkitam, Indrapramit Roy, B.V. Suresh, Jayaram Poduval, K.P. Reji, Chinnan Vinod, Rajesh P.S., Neha Goswamy, Sukhdev Rathod, Jaldeep Chauhan, Piyush Thakkar, Geeta Parmar, Ravibhai, Manorama Ben, Rajeshbhai—thank you.
A number of institutions and organisations have kindly allowed AAA to present their copyrighted documents on AAA’s website. AAA is grateful to the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda; Indu Chandrasekhar, Tulika Books (Delhi); Naveen Kishore, Seagull Books (Kolkata); Lalit Kala Akademi (Delhi); and Geetha Mehra, Sakshi Gallery (Mumbai).
AAA is thankful to Mr P. Jha (Director, Cultural Informatics, IGNCA) and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), Delhi, for their support and assistance in the digitisation of Jyoti Bhatt’s photographs and 35mm negatives.
This digitisation of documents was performed on site in Baroda by a team of project researchers in close conversation with the artists involved.
Project Researchers: Sabih Ahmed, Rashmimala Devi, Chithra K.S., Avijna Bhattacharya
Project Assistants: Harish Chinnangod, Vasvi Oza, Veda Thozhur, Aruna Rao
Project Strategy and Digital Platform Development: Hammad Nasar, David Smith
Digital Content Management: Nicole Lai, Elaine Lin, Paco Ma
IGNCA digitization assistance: Shilpa Joshi, Imran Liyakhath Ali
The Baroda Archives Project has been generously supported by the Avantha Foundation and the Burger Collection.