Another Life: The Digitised Personal Archive of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram

Collection Description

In January 2010, AAA began to digitise Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram's archive of modern and contemporary Indian art. The first personal archive in India to be digitised by AAA, the project brings to the public the broad range of material collected by Kapur and Sundaram since the late 1960s. Originally established as a personal archive, the collection not only documents the artwork and writings produced and published during Kapur and Sundaram's prolific careers; it also documents events of India's art scene over the last 50 years, and includes group show catalogues, newspaper clippings, and artist slides, some of which are entering the public domain for the first time.
 
The contributions of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram to the field are incommensurable, particularly in terms of paving the way for discursive shifts in Indian art practice. The two are known not only for the seminal work they have individually produced, but for expanding the horizons of art practice in general. Kapur is primarily an art critic, yet her curatorial projects have been acknowledged as much as her writings by well-established institutions and museums around the world. Sundaram, on the other hand, is an artist, and, equally significantly, an archivist. His works have been shown in many prestigious exhibitions in the past four decades. Kapur and Sundaram's archive thus encompasses multiple aspects of art practice, from writing and curating to art-making and archiving.
 
For over five decades, the two have systematically preserved and documented all that they found significant in the field. They have kindly allowed AAA to digitise this invaluable collection for posterity, and it is AAA's privilege to bring the material to the public, and into the future.
 
In trying to maintain the original structure established by Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram, the digitised archive is divided into seven sections, overviews of which are presented below.

I. Artists

The Artists section contains over 6,500 images of artworks and exhibition views. Images range from work by artists such as Amrita Sher-Gil that date back to 1930 to images of works by emerging artists in 2010. Approximately 3,200 of the images documenting works by 145 artists have been converted from 35mm slides to digital format, while the remainder originated in CD/DVD format. Most of the slides and CDs were given to Kapur and Sundaram by artists and private collectors over the years. Thus, this trove of images brings to light many artworks that are rarely found in publications or other publicly accessible documentation. While the collection includes extensive material on such well-known Indian artists as M.F. Husain, Tyeb Mehta, J. Swaminathan, Nasreen Mohamedi, Bhupen Khakhar, Sudhir Patwardhan, K.G. Subramanyan, Rummana Hussain, Nalini Malani, K.P. Krishnakumar, Navjot Altaf, Sheela Gowda, and Pushpamala N., among others, it does not cover the entire oeuvre of any of these artists. Instead, it reveals Kapur and Sundaram's own preferences and interests.

II. Other Exhibitions and Events

A number of exhibitions and artist-led initiatives that took place in India over the last 50 years had little or no published documentation aside from pamphlets or invitation cards. This section presents an inventory and select scans of 1,150 documents of group exhibitions and events from 1946 onwards. The section also presents an inventory of all 1,550 artists in the Archive, indicating those whose solo exhibitions are documented herein. Digital scans of rare and significant catalogues such as those from the exhibitions 'Progressive Artists Group' in 1964, 'Group 1890' in 1963, and 'SIX who declined to show at the Triennale' in 1978, have also been preserved in this segment of the archive.

III. Kasauli Art Centre

Founded in 1976, the Kasauli Art Centre is perhaps the first artist-led international artist residency centre in India. It differentiated itself from artist communes and collectives by conducting annual artist workshops and academic seminars. With K.G. Subramanyan as president, Professor B.N. Goswamy as vice-president, and Vivan Sundaram as founder and secretary, the Centre became a hub for artists, art critics, historians, theatre persons, dancers, and filmmakers to gather and consider their practices. The Kasauli Art Centre can be considered one of the underlying forces for the development of cultural studies in India; several scholars who gathered here became lecturers and professors of comparative literature, film-studies, and popular visual culture in universities and the Centre was a springboard for important initiatives such as the Journal of Arts and Ideas, the 'Seven Young Sculptors' exhibition, and Indo-German artist exchange programs. AAA has digitised the photo-documentation of the Kasauli Art Centre from 1976 onwards, and presents the first-ever compilation of a chronology of events at the Centre.

IV. Geeta Kapur: Curatorial Work

Since 1978, Geeta Kapur has curated exhibitions in museums and public institutions around the world. This section documents her curatorial career from her earliest exhibition, 'Pictorial Space', at Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi to her most recent, entitled 'subTerrain: artworks in the cityfold', presented at the House of World Cultures, Berlin, in 2003. The section includes images of exhibition installations in process and finalised, email correspondence between Kapur and institution officials, working notes, exhibition reviews, and digital scans of catalogues that are now out-of-print.

V. Geeta Kapur: Essays and Lectures

Geeta Kapur's texts have appeared frequently in internationally published anthologies and catalogues, but her early essays, printed in newspapers and academic journals in the 1970s, are now relatively difficult to find. This project digitally preserves most of her early writings and makes them available to the public. This section also contains scans of the majority of her essays published in important anthologies, journals, and catalogues since the 1980s. An e-version of Kapur's seminal book When was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India (Tulika Books, 2000), and complete digital scans of Husain (Sadanga Publications, 1968), Amrita Sher-Gil, (Marg Publications, 1972), and K.G. Subramanyan (Lalit Kala Akademi, 1987) are also included. Among the most astounding items in this section is the never published manuscript of a book about Tyeb Mehta. As an independent art critic, Kapur has lectured in institutions, museums, and international forums since the late 1960s. This section brings together the comprehensive collection of the author's lecture notes and Powerpoint presentations since 1995.

VI. Vivan Sundaram: Artistic Career

Vivan Sundaram has embraced multifarious roles in his prolific career an artist. This section is dedicated solely to Sundaram's artwork, including more than 1,000 digitised images of his artworks, exhibition views, and photographs documenting installation processes.
 
Sundaram's career is documented in elaborate detail, including his paintings from the 1960s through the turbulent times of the Emergency in the 1970s, and his resolution to stop painting in 1990 and turn to sculpture, installation, photography, and video. Extensive documentation in the form of correspondence, exhibition proposal, and budget and layout plans of the now iconic site-specific work, Structures of Memory, shown in Victoria Memorial Hall in 1998, is also included in the section. A number of artist statements, concept notes, and essays by Sundaram have also been digitally preserved. Finally, Sundaram's section includes complete digital scans of the artist's five scrap books, which contain over 600 articles, reviews, newspaper clippings, and interviews in which Sundaram is featured.

VII. Vivan Sundaram: Public Projects

In addition to making artwork and building a comprehensive archive, Sundaram has organised international and national artist programmes and workshops, and has worked as an activist, a curator, and an editor. He has played a pivotal role in mobilising the resources for a number of significant public art projects. Sundaram acted as secretary of an ad-hoc committee for All India Artists' Protest in 1971. He was the founding member and trustee of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) 'Artists Alert' in 1989 and has since curated a number of exhibitions organised by SAHMAT. He is the secretary of The Biennale Society, New Delhi, and he has collaborated with filmmakers and theatre groups. This section contains digital scans of catalogues, pamphlets, and photo-documentation of a selection of his projects. In addition to extensive documentation of his public art interventions and exhibitions with SAHMAT, AAA has digitised the catalogue accompanying the 'Seven Young Sculptors' exhibition, which he curated in 1985. This section also includes photo-documentation of The Biennale Society seminar entitled 'Elective Affintties, Constitutive Differences: Contemporary Art in Asia' that was organised by Sundaram as Biennale Society Secretary in 2007.

Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram's Profile


Geeta Kapur

Geeta Kapur is a Delhi-based critic and curator. Her writing on contemporary art and cultural theory include widely anthologised essays on alternative modernisms and national paradigms; issues of representation and forms of critical contemporaniety; the positioning of interventionist artworks in inter-media practices; and curatorial initiatives in India and the global south. Her books include Contemporary Indian Artists (Vikas, Delhi, 1978), When was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India (Tulika, Delhi, 2000), and, forthcoming, Ends and Means: critical inscriptions in contemporary art (Tulika, Delhi, 2011). In addition to several exhibitions in India, some staged at the Lalit Kala Akademi and the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi and Mumbai, her curatorial work includes the co-curated Festival of India exhibition, 'Contemporary Indian Art', at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (1982); 'Dispossession', the Indian section in the First Johannesburg Biennale (1995); the co-curated 'Bombay/ Mumbai' for the multi-part exhibition, 'Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis', at the Tate Modern, London, 2001; and 'subTerrain: artworks in the cityfold' for the 'Body.City' project at the House of World Cultures, Berlin, 2003. Kapur was a member of the International Jury of the 51st Venice Biennale, 2005; the 9th Dakar Biennale, 2006; and Sharjah Biennale 8, 2007. She has been a member of the Asian Art Council of the Guggenheim Museum, New York since 2007. One of the founder-editors of the Journal of Arts & Ideas, she is advisory editor to Third Text and a Trustee of Marg. She has lectured throughout the world in university and museum contexts, and held fellowships at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla; Clare Hall, University of Cambridge; Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi; the Jawaharlal Nehru University; and the University of Delhi. She is currently a member of AAA's Advisory Board.

Vivan Sundaram

Vivan Sundaram was born in Simla, India in 1943. He studied painting at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and The Slade School of Fine Art, London in the 1960s. Since 1990, he has focused on sculpture, installation, photography, and video, exhibiting his work in solo exhibitions throughout India, as well as in New York, London, Paris, Toronto, Montreal, and Copenhagen. His work has been exhibited at the Biennial of Sydney (2008), the Seville Biennial (2006), the Taipei Biennial (2006), the Sharjah Biennial (2005), the Shanghai Biennial (2004), the Havana Biennial (1997), the Johannesburg Biennial, (1997), the Kwangju Biennial (1997), and the Asia-Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery (1996).

 
Sundaram has also participated in group shows at the International Centre for Photography, New York (2008); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2008); Centro Cultural de Belem, Lisbon (2007); Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago (2007); Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2007); Kunstmuseum, Bern (2007); Spazio Oberdan, Milan(2007); ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe (2007); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2006); Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation, Vienna (2006); the Queens Museum of Art, New York (2005); Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth (2004); O Museu/Cultergest, Lisbon, (2004); Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore (2003); Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo (2002); Galerie du jour, Paris (2002); Haus der Kulteren der Welt, Berlin (2003); Grazer Kunstverein, Graz (2002); Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2001); Ernst Museum, Budapest (2001); Tate Modern, London (2001); and Japan Foundation, Tokyo (1998).
 
In addition to his artistic career, Sundaram has curated exhibitions such as 'Seven Young Sculptors' (1985), and a number of exhibitions such as 'Art on the Move' (2001) and 'Artists Against Communalism: Images and Words' (1991), organised by SAHMAT (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust), of which he is among the founder-members and trustees. Sundaram has also organised a number of national and international artist workshops and conferences from those at the Kasauli Art Centre in the 1970s and 80s, to 'Elective Affinities, Constitutive Differences: Contemporary Art in Asia' in 2007, an international conference which he organised in his capacity as Secretary of India's Biennale Society.
 
Vivan Sundaram lives in Delhi and is married to the critic and curator Geeta Kapur.
 

Acknowledgements

The digitisation of the Kapur and Sundaram archive has been made possible by the generosity of friends and colleagues who have been willing to share documentation with them for so many years. To them, Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram wish to extend their warmest gratitude.  
 
AAA wishes to extend its sincere thanks to the following people for allowing AAA to use some of the digitised documents in this project: Indu Chandrasekhar, Tulika Books, New Delhi; Shireen Gandhy, Director, Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai; Shalini Sawhney, Director, The Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai; Zasha Colah, Curator, Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai; and Rajendra Prasad, SAHMAT.
 
Project Team
 
Project Researcher: Sabih Ahmad, AAA Researcher for India
Research Assistant: Rupin Maitreyee and Priyani Roy Chowdhury

Related Programmes

Exhibition| Talk 26 - 29 May 2011
Another Life: The Digitised Personal Archive of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram
 
Symposium| Digitisation Project 26 Feb 2011
The Subject of Archives

Vivan Sundaram and Geeta Kapur, London, 1969. Photographed by Gulammohammed Sheikh.
Slide Trays containing 35mm slides of over 4,200 images of artworks by Indian artists.
Group photograph of participating artists from 'Place for People' exhibition, 1981. L-R: Sudhir Patwardhan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Nalini Malani, Bhupen Khakhar, Jogen Chowdhury, Vivan Sundaram.
Exhibition Review by Akla Raghuvanshi and Sumita Thapar of 'Hundred Years From the NGMA Collection' curated by Geeta Kapur, 1994
Vivan Sundaram, Marxism in the Expanded Field, colour photograph on archival paper, 92.2 x 127 cm, 2000
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