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Narayan Khandekar giving a lecture on color and pigments at CSMVS auditorium


As part of our deep commitment to South Asian art, The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University partnered with Mumbai’s most important museum, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), to host a two-day event around art and heritage conservation in India.

The Conservation Initiative included lectures by Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University, and Narayan Khandekar, Director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies and Senior Conservation Specialist, Harvard Art Museums, followed by a day-long workshop with conservators from all over India.

In his talk on the ‘Art and Science of the Forbes Pigment Collection’, Dr. Khandekar spoke about how pigments in art and artifacts are identified through scientific analysis, which has led to breakthroughs in the understanding of historical paintings and painted surfaces. Professor Jinah Kim explored the intersection between scientific analysis and color representations in ‘Color and Pigments in Indian Painting’. She grounded her discussion of the material, physical, and subjective experience of color in Indian painting by exploring the perception that the Hindu deity Krishna is blue.

 The Conservation Initiative workshop brought together conservators and curators, with a variety of specialisms, to discuss the state of art conservation in India. Academics and practitioners from both public and private institutions participated in a productive discussion on the status of conservation, conservation training and implementation, and how to collaborate in future.


Particpants talking about the present state of conservation during one of the 3 smaller group discussions


According to Vinod Daniels, Head of Cultural Heritage and Science Initiatives at the Australian Museum, museums and conservation are not a high priority in the country, and conservationists must pick one substantial, sustainable aspect to work on. S. Girikumar, a private practitioner, noted that communication and collaboration between conservators and institutes needs to be better because if an institution does not have labs or resources, there are other institutions that do have the right facilities. Satish Pandey, Associate Professor at the National Museum Institute, also mentioned the lack of communication between scientists, art historians, fine arts experts and conservators. Shikha Jain, Director of Preservation and Community Design at Dronah, emphasized the importance of proper research and needing to build an umbrella agency of conservators and others in the field, through a private-public partnership. The discussions were productive and timely.

The Mittal Institute and Harvard Global Research Support Centre India will continue to collaborate with CSMVS to further the aims of art and heritage conservation in India.