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Sites and Sights: Museums, Exhibitions and the Making of the Art

What is Art and how do sites and spaces of encounter with the visual image condition our understanding of works of art? Seeking answers to these fundamental questions in art history and visual culture, this course brings in dialogue the works of art with the spaces that such works have come to inhabit in our present world – museums, art galleries, and other spaces of visual exhibitions. Moving beyond the established trajectories of looking at exhibitions, museums, and gallery spaces as storehouses of masterpieces of Art, or merely as spaces of ordering, classifying, and displaying objects and images, we will look closely at how exhibitionary practices of museums and public art galleries, constitute the very category Art around a select body of objects and images. Beginning with early modern royal and notable private collections, and cabinet of curiosities across the world, the course will explore the specific moments of the coming into being of public museums and art galleries, freak shows and world exhibitions in Europe and across different parts of the world. It will explore how politics of collection, museum acqisition, display, and repatriation are tied with larger questions of colonialism, war, loot, postcolonial nationalist reassertions,,and postwar encounters with race and ethnicity. With a specific focus on Asia, the course will map the connected global trajectories of art museums, art galleries and art fairs as diverse ways of engaging with the visual image. In the process it will highlight the role of the artists, curators, and museum/ gallery visitors in the production of a complex set of dialogues around artistic and curatorial visions. The course will end by looking at contemporary South Asia, mapping the challenges of redesigning exhibitionary orders of older museums and art institutions and spread of museum display modes for different intent in commemorative sites, theme parks, memorials, and new temples. This co-constitution of art and art museums will be addressed during class discussions and during visits to local galleries, museums, theme parks, and temples - to the Indian Museum, Kolkata, the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi the National Museum, New Delhi, the National Handloom and Handicrafts Musem, New Delhi, the Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal, Nodia, the Swaminarayan Akshardham Complex, New Delhi, the British Museum, London and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka