October 5, 2022

MAP Academy’s encyclopedia puts 10,000 years of Indian art history in one place

4 min read


written by Oscar Holland, CNN

From prehistoric Bhimbetka cave paintings to works by contemporary art stars such as Atal Dodia and Shilpa Gupta, India More than 10,000 years old cultural heritage.

Therefore, it is surprising to Abhishek Podar, one of the country’s leading collectors, textile tycoon and philanthropist, that there is no single source of authentic information on the art history of the subcontinent.

“I didn’t even realize that India had no encyclopedia of art,” he said over the phone. I didn’t think so, “he added. “Every child (Michelangelo’s) knows about ‘David’, ‘Mona Lisa’ and Botticelli, but there are Indian masterpieces that not even 1% of Indians know about.”

A sandstone statue in the middle of the 11th century. "Heavenly Dancer (God)."

A sandstone statue in the middle of the 11th century, the “celestial dancer (god).” Credit: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum

Hoping to cover this deficit, it has helped launch one. Encyclopedia of South Asian Art With over 2,000 entries, it covers popular specimens, folk traditions, handicraft techniques and cultural institutions of the region.

Funded by Poddar’s Museum of Art and Photography (MAP), which opens later this year in the southern city of Bangalore, the open access resource was created by a group of about 20 researchers and editors. The material was peer-reviewed internally and monitored by a panel of expert scholars and authors.

This site is intended for everyone from students and academics in India and beyond to readers with a general interest. Nathanel Gascal, founder and director of the project, said that in the hope of making the entries as accessible as possible, the researchers not only focused on the accuracy of the facts but also used clear and concise language.

The encyclopedia highlights a wide range of regional art, such as the stone painting style used by the Bheel people and artists such as Bhuri Bai.

The encyclopedia highlights a wide range of regional art, such as the stone painting style used by the Bheel people and artists such as Bhuri Bai. Credit: Thanks to Hervé Perdriolle

“A lot of scholarships are in ridiculous literal terms,” ​​he told the Encyclopedia in a phone interview.

Miscellaneous focus

Gaskell said the research team, which includes mostly early Indian educationists, hopes to address the various prejudices in the historical arts – including colonial narrative. It influenced both how entries are written and what was included in the first place.

“The bias of Western institutions is that they have seen only a few things, and overlooked a lot of regional art,” said Gaskel, who is also its author. Book “Photography in India: A Visual History from the 1850s to the Present.”

“By incorporating regional, non-fine art items, we’re starting to pay attention to that immediately.”

Features of religious and mythological art are widespread, as is the case with this small painting. "Gita Govinda."

Religious and mythological art has a wide range of features, such as this miniature painting depicting a scene from “Gita Govinda”. Credit: Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art

Early entries were made to represent the different religious, linguistic and local traditions of the subcontinent, while a large number of male and female artists were included. The encyclopedia aims to shed light on the handicrafts and living traditions of backward communities, as well as the less studied aspects of regional art history – from folk dramas and embroidery to medieval Indian board games popular in the United States. Injuries and stairs.

For Podar, finding the shortcomings of the current scholarship was primarily about sticking to the facts: “We’re not rewriting history, we’re just rewriting what happened and combining it in interesting ways. . “

Three years later, the encyclopedia was started primarily in English, which is widely spoken in India. The organizers hope that the entries will be translated into Hindi in the near future. Researchers plan to increase online storage to about 1,000 entries a year, with a growing focus on a wider area.

Sahag Studio, a photography studio established in 1979 in Madhya Pradesh, is one of the art institutes included in the MAP Academy Encyclopedia of Art.

Sahag Studio, a photography studio established in 1979 in Madhya Pradesh, is one of the art institutes included in the MAP Academy Encyclopedia of Art. Credit: Courtesy of Museum of Art and Photography.

“We are talking about things that are as much a part of the history of Pakistan or Bangladesh as they are of India,” Gaskel said, noting that many important issues precede modern borders.

‘This is world art’

India’s art sector relies heavily on philanthropists like Podar. The latest from the Ministry of Culture Annual budget 26.9 billion ($ 351 million), which was only one-fifth the cost of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest museum in the United States, in 2020.

Podar, who donated thousands of items from his personal collection to his soon-to-be-opened museum, believes education is the best way to secure the long-term potential of the sector in India.

“If we really want to promote a museum-going culture and make the arts relevant, we need a foundation of education – and one that is accessible and freely available,” he said. Not just for museum visitors, “he said. “You have to start investing in things you may or may not see in the next five or 10 years – it could be a generation later.”

One of the earliest items to appear in the encyclopedia is stamps made in the Indus Valley up to 2600 BC.

One of the earliest items to appear in the encyclopedia is stamps made in the Indus Valley up to 2600 BC. Credit: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum

He said the businessman’s funding for projects such as the MAP Academy Encyclopedia of Art was “somewhat” a matter of patriotism.

He added, “I just feel we have great art.” And it’s not just about seeing the Indian community in India, or the Indian Diaspora outside. It’s not someone’s domain – it’s global art. “

Top Picture: “Indian Roller on Sandalwood Branch” (1779) by Sheikh Zainuddin.



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