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Tag: art

The Mittal Institute and Art Conservation in India

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 will continue to collaborate with CSMVS to further the aims of art and heritage conservation in India.

SAI visiting artists’ reflections on time at Harvard

In March 2017, we welcomed our Spring semester Visiting Artists: Madhu Das (Mumbai, India) and Rabindra Shrestha (Kathmandu, Nepal). Both work in visual media; they displayed their work on campus, met with students, attended classes and gave public seminars from March 20-31. Applications are open until Monday, August 15, 2017 for the Fall program.

Madhu and Rabindra offered these reflections on their time at Harvard:


I was able to Interact with people from different parts of the world and see how they responded to my work. This will help me to look at my work from a different perspective. I can now get a sense of India as an outsider as well as an insider. I haven’t been outside my home country and the unfamiliar landscape, weather and culture opened my mind.


I can’t fully express the power of the days I have spent here. People back home will be curious to see what I will do with this new exposure; it has given me fresh energy. Artists must come here with an empty mind; it’s almost like a holy place, where you have to absorb as much as you can.



Arms, armor, and weapons

rrBy Meghan Smith, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, SAI

Sometimes, to shatter the glass ceiling, you need a weapon.

Rachel Parikh has plenty at her fingertips – and she wants to use them to break more than a few glass ceilings. As the Calderwood Curatorial Fellow in South Asian Art at Harvard Art Museums, she focuses her work on manuscripts, arms, and armor – yes, weapons.

She admits that even she had her own misconceptions about studying weapons.

“You often associate arms and armor with war, violence, and masculinity,” Parikh says. “I made my own PhD dissertation all about breaking misconceptions about Islamic art and South Asian art, so it was funny that I fell into this misconception about arms and armor.”

Parikh’s dissertation at the University of Cambridge focused on a seventeenth century Deccan Indian copy of a sixteenth century Persian manuscript called the Falnama (‘Book of Omens’). After completing her Ph.D. Parikh was a Postdoctoral Fellow at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she researched and cataloged objects for the museum’s Department of Arms and Armor.

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Research Assistant needed: South and Southeast Asian Art

Professor Jinah Kim (History of Art & Architecture) is looking for a Research Assistant to help her with various research projects, which includes an exhibition on Nepalese Buddhist art, a visual database project, a bibliographic project on the history of Indian painting, and a symposium on South and Southeast Asian Art.  Familiarity with one or more Indic languages (especially Sanskrit) is desirable but not required.

An ideal candidate would have strong organizational and management skills. Web design/ site management experience would be a plus. Hours are flexible, but the job will demand at least 4-5 hours per week with an option of being a 20hours/week position. Salary range: between $14.50-18.50/hr. Job Duration: Spring 2017. Open to both graduate and undergraduate.

If interested, please email Jinah Kim,

Faculty Voices: Where India and China Meet

1Where India and China Meet: Buddhist Art Exhibition in Palace Museum, Beijing  

By Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

Kim received a SAI Faculty Grant for her research on Indian painting.

A first major loan exhibition of Indian art in Beijing, China is currently held in the majestic Meridian gate tower of the Palace Museum (September 28, 2016- January 3 2017) of the Forbidden City (see a virtual tour of the exhibition here.) “Across the Silk Road: Gupta Sculptures and their Chinese Counterparts during 400 to 700CE” is an ambitious exhibition conceived by the senior curatorial fellow of the Palace Museum, Dr. Lou Wenhua, after his visit to India over 3 years ago. Fifty-six sculptures from nine Indian Museums are on display against a red backdrop in one gallery, while two adjacent galleries are filled with over one hundred Chinese Buddhist sculptures against blue backdrop. Bringing this exhibition together is an impressive feat by the organizers in Beijing, which, of course, was not possible without collaborative efforts from many museum personnel and officers in India.

When the China-India bilateral relationship is not as rosy and warm as anticipated (i.e. India’s failed entry into the NSG at the Seoul plenary, CPEC [China Pakistan Economic Corridor] developments—part of President Xie Jinping’s Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Maritime Silk Road projects), the exhibition reminds us of the age old connections between the two countries, notably activated and solidified through the transmission of Buddhism. It also opens up new possibilities of trans-regional connections for the future that may benefit tremendously from mutual understanding of each other’s culture and history.

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A peek at Harvard Art Museums’ South Asia collection

This week, Rachel Parikh (@rachel.parikh), the Calderwood Curatorial Fellow of South Asian Art at Harvard Art Museums took over SAI’s Instagram account (@HarvardSAI) to highlight some of the museum’s amazing South Asian Art collection. Rachel specializes in South Asian manuscript painting and arms and armor from the sixteenth through nineteenth century.

Learn more about SAI’s Arts Program.

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Student Voices: Buddhist art in Odisha

sonali2This is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Sonali Dhingra, PhD candidate, History of Art and Architecture, Harvard

My dissertation on “Buddhist art in Odisha between the seventh and eleventh century” is based on sculptural and architectural remains from the south-eastern Indian coastal state of Odisha. A generous grant from the South Asia Institute at Harvard enabled me to learn Odia, the primary language spoken in region. I spent the summer in the green and beautiful city of Bhubaneshwar, also known as the “city of temples”.

Classes were arranged through the American Institute of Indian studies, as Odia is not taught at Harvard and is seldom learned by graduate students working on South Asia. In fact, I was the only student in the program which was consequently well-tailored to my needs. The language program segued seamlessly into my field-work year and after a successful completion of the program, I visited several living temples, small villages and archaeological sites in rural Odisha, where knowing Odia is a definite asset. Medieval Odiya literature is indispensable for tracing the lives of the images and architectural spaces that I am studying for my dissertation project.

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In their own words: Why I support the arts

IMG_9103 - CopyRepresenting Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, the members of the SAI Arts Council provide financial support and advisement for SAI’s Arts Program. The program connects South Asia’s artists with Harvard faculty and students to support research that advances the understanding of cultural, political, social, and economic issues of the world through art.

SAI recently welcomed Omar Saeed, based in Lahore, to the council. Mr. Saeed came to SAI as an in-kind supporter 5 years ago. He has been the Chief Executive Officer of Service Industries Ltd. since July 31, 2011. Mr. Saeed served as Chief Operating Officer of Premier BPO Inc. He ran Service Sales Corporation as Chief Operating Officer from 2002 to 2010. He founded Ovex Technologies (Private) Limited in 2003 and served as its Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Saeed has served as President of Harvard Business School Club of Pakistan and is an adjunct faculty member at LUMS. He is a graduate of Brown University and did his Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

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Update from Visiting Artists, 2015-16

During the 2015-2016 academic year, SAI hosted 4 artists from South Asia for a week each, where they visited course, interacted with students, displayed their work, and gave a public seminar. Below are updates from what they have been involved in since their time at Harvard.

Apply for the upcoming year’s program (Deadline Aug. 15, 2016).

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Update from the Harvard Alumni Group in Nepal

Rai, second from right, with members of the Group

Rai, second from right, with members of the Group

The Harvard Alumni Group of Nepal hosted its monthly meeting on May 10, 2016 in Kathmandu, which featured a talk by Milan Rai, a young artist from Nepal who participated in the South Asia Institute’s Visiting Artist Program in 2016. He discussed his “White Butterfly” project.

Rai is an accomplished artist, who found his gift for painting and sketching following a painful stint with drugs and gang fighting when he was young. He dropped out of school, but kept moving forward. He began to seek out professional opportunities to improve his skills. He worked on figurative and landscape painting, and then abstract paintings utilizing a myriad of disciplines and media. His first solo exhibition was in 2007 at Park Gallery. He then moved beyond the gallery system and became a self-representing artist.

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