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Art and Architecture Conferences

Art and Architecture Conferences

The Mittal Institute offers several conferences, workshops, and seminars on art and architecture throughout the year, bringing together researchers, artists, curators, art enthusiasts, and more to discuss the importance of art, architecture, and cultural conservation in South Asia. 

Art and Science of Heritage Conservation: Finding the Right Balance

December 2020

The “Art and Science of Heritage Conservation: Finding the Right Balance” workshop series was composed of two parts, the first of which focused on recent developments in science and the impact of these developments on the field of art conservation. The panelists delved into the current understanding about materials and techniques in the conservation of antiquities.

In its second part, the workshop centered on the status of art conservation science in South Asia today, as panelists explored how to develop and carry out a leading art conservation science program in South Asia. This series was co-hosted with the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) museum in Mumbai, India.

Anupam Sah, Head of Head of Art Conservation, Research, and Training at CSVMS museum in Mumbai, moderated both of the workshops in the series, and was joined by panelists from Harvard University, Rathgen Research Laboratory in Berlin, the National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property in Lucknow, the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bengaluru, ICOM of Nepal, The Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and more, for an in-depth discussion with some of the leading conservation experts from around the world.

Nepal Mandala Symposium

December 2019

The Kathmandu valley, which was designated as “nepāla mandala” in historical records and constituted “Nepal” until 1769, has been a highly creative center in the imagined periphery that was part of the Indic cultural region since 400 CE. The late Malla period (1482—1769 CE) followed by the Shah period (1769—2008 CE) witnessed vibrant cultural developments that indicate constant conversations with political and cultural centers in the neighboring regions. Yet, Nepal is rarely centrally situated in the discussion of early modern history or connected “global” history. Buried under the perpetuating image of insularity, Nepal seems doubly jeopardized to remain in the periphery or in-between and historically backward. The Nepal Mandala Symposium explored the place of Nepal in the interconnected history of Asia, especially from the fifteenth century onwards.

The Nepal Mandala Symposium coincided with an NEH-sponsored exhibition on Nepalese Buddhist art, “Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art of Nepal,” which brought together many lesser known objects of the Malla period and the Shah period. It provided an opportunity to examine the questions of modernity and globality in the study of Nepal’s art and culture. The call to explore more trans-regional connections must be pursued along with deeper historical inquiries into the unique cultural matrix of the Kathmandu valley. To this end, the symposium brought together scholars of religion, anthropology, and art history whose work examines critically various aspects of Nepal’s culture and history.

Museums & the City Workshop

September 2019

The Museums & the City Workshop, held at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) Museum in Mumbai in September 2019, explored how museums can create an expanded culture of civic life that represents and nurtures the diverse and plural sensibilities of those with whom they share space. The workshop, spanning three days, covered a variety of lenses through which we can view the museum: as a forum, a mechanism for cultural partnership, a platform versus a container, a cultural infrastructure, and more. 

Throughout the workshop, participants grappled with issues of museum management, patronage, and conservation. They looked for ways to develop strategies for effective curatorial practices and exchanging knowledge around museum practice and integration. During the panel that focused on the future of conservation, it became clear that one of the major barriers in the conservation movement in India is the misconception that conservation must focus on time and money without considering historical and contextual research. As such, the research aspects of conservation are very nascent, and the equipment to analyze works of art is very limited and expensive. Another barrier lies in the lack of expertise around the material sciences behind conservation, especially given the range of climate and environmental factors in different parts of the region.

Assessing Conservation Training in India

September 2019

Following the Museums & The City workshop, CSMVS and the Mittal Institute partnered to hold a daylong focus group aimed at assessing conservation training in India by examining current models of conservation training programs and collectively identifying points for future enhancement of training. The focus group was made up of conservation scholars and specialists, and focused on the theories and practices of conservation in India. 

The focus group grappled with the possible components of conservation training, stressing the importance of balance between theory and practice and knowing what to do, how to do it, and why it’s worth doing. This led into a discussion on interdisciplinarity in training and including actors and specialists from art history, studio art, the sciences (and more) to come together in these trainings and exchange knowledge and best practices. This process takes an extensive amount of time and, as the system currently stands, it takes between 6-8 years to produce a fully independent conservation professional, from securing a degree to placement in the field.

The participants discussed a tentative plan to create a program that engages with experts from around the world to create a “global” model of best practices, in addition to the existing programs offered in universities. 

Art Conservation Initiative Workshop

August 2018

At the Art Conservation Initiative Workshop in 2018, the discussion among participants of the workshop covered a wide breadth of topics, including the development of conservation in India, conservation education and training, public and private sector conservation initiatives, and approaches to potential conservation collaboration. Delving into the state of conservation in South Asia, and India in particular, participants learned about the delivery platforms for conservation training and implementation, which include government institutions, NGOs, universities, archives, and private institutions.

Overall, there has been a changing nature of conservation practice in India. While initially people traveled abroad to learn conservation practice, more importance has now been placed on understanding indigenous knowledge because the materials, resources, and climate in India are all contextual.

To design training programs, conservation practitioners emphasized the need to focus on field training. In India, there is a need for an interdisciplinary approach, as well as more specialization training. Before going abroad, a young conservator must understand the context and get basic training from India, so that they can make the most of advanced techniques available abroad. Overall, generalized conservation training programs should be a mix of fine arts, history, and science.