Upcoming Events

London, Asia, Art, Worlds

  • 27 May to 25 June 2021
  • Full conference details with speaker abstracts and biographies
  • Online Events

London, Asia, Art, Worlds is a multi-part programme of online events taking place in May and June 2021. It is envisioned as a murmuration, a series of interconnected papers, conversations, performances, and interventions. This event is part of the Paul Mellon Centre’s London, Asia project. The programme is structured around the following propositions for consideration: Sociality and Affect; Potential Histories and Solidarities; Circulation and Encounter; Pedagogy and Learning; Bureaucracy and Agency; Aesthetics and Ways of Knowing; Thinking Asia Through Empire; Thinking from Asia.

London, Asia, Art, Worlds posits London as a key site in the construction of art historical narratives in Asia, and reflects on the ways in which the growing field of modern and contemporary art history in Asia intersects with and challenges existing histories of British art. By excavating historical entanglements and relational comparisons that link London and Asia, the conference questions the boundaries of national and regional histories, and explores new distributive and decolonial models of writing art histories. 

London, Asia, Art, Worlds is convened by:

Hammad Nasar, Senior Research Fellow | Paul Mellon Centre

Ming Tiampo, Professor, Art History, and Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture | Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Sarah Victoria Turner, Deputy Director for Research | Paul Mellon Centre

WEEK ONE

27 May: Sociality & Affect – Zoom Webinar, 13:00–16:15

Chair: Sarah Victoria Turner (Deputy Director for Research, Paul Mellon Centre)

13.00-13.15     Welcome & Introductions

13.15-14.00     Keynote Paper: Leela Gandhi (John Hawkes Professor of Humanities and English at Brown University), ‘Invisible, Inc.’

14.00-14.15     Discussion and Questions

14.15-14.30     Break

14.30-14.35     Welcome back/Introductions

14.35-14.55     Simone Wille (Art Historian), ‘Krishna Reddy between Santiniketan, London, Paris, Ljubljana, and Vienna: Cold War Friendships and Networks, Collaborations and Aesthetic Solidarities’

14.55-15.15     Greg Salter (Lecturer, University of Birmingham), ‘Queer Britain and Queer India?: Sunil Gupta in the 1980s’

15.15-15.45     Discussion & Questions

15.45-16.15     Optional breakout rooms for continued discussion

WEEK TWO

3 June: Potential Histories & Solidarities – Zoom Webinar, 13:00–16:15

Chair: Parul Dave-Mukherji (Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) 

13.00-13.15     Welcome & Introductions

13.15-14.00     Keynote: Michael Rakowitz (Artist) and Omar Kholeif (Director of Collections and Senior Curator at Sharjah Art Foundation) 

14.00-14.15     Break

14.15-14.20     Welcome back/Introductions

14.20-14.40     David Morris (Research Fellow and Editor at Afterall), ‘Artists for Democracy and the Vietnam Festival (1975)’

14.40-15.00     Maryam Ohadi-Hamadani (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Yale Center for British Art), ‘A Little Too Much “Commonwealth New Vision”’

15.00-15.30     Discussion & Questions

15.30-16.00     Optional breakout rooms for continued discussion

4 June: Circulation & Encounter – Zoom Webinar, 13:00–16:15

Chair: Hammad Nasar (Senior Research Fellow, Paul Mellon Centre)

13.00-13.15     Welcome & Introductions

13.15-14.00     Keynote: Hew Locke (Artist) and Tim Barringer (Paul Mellon Professor in the History of Art, Yale University) in Conversation, ‘East Indian West Indian’

14.00-14.15     Discussion and Questions

14.15-14.30     Break

14.30-14.35     Welcome back/Introductions

14.35-14.55     Devika Singh (Curator, Tate Modern), ‘A Third World “Predicament”? Ebrahim Alkazi and London-Asia Circulation’ (pre-recorded talk)

14.55-15.15     Michelle Wong (PhD Candidate), ‘Overlay Pages, Stitched Worlds: On Ha Bik Chuen’s Creative and Archival Practice’

15.15-15.45     Discussion & Questions

15.45-16.15     Optional breakout rooms for continued discussion

WEEK THREE

10 June: Pedagogy and Learning – Zoom Webinar, 14:00–17:15

Chair: Ming Tiampo (Professor of Art History, and co-director of the Centre for Transnational Cultural Analysis at Carleton University)

14.00-14.15     Welcome & Introductions

14.15-15.00    Keynote: Naazish Ata-Ullah (Former Principal of the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan), 'Multi-layered histories: evolving pedagogies in Pakistan’s pioneering art school'

15.00-15.15     Discussion and Questions

15.15-15.30     Break

15.30-15.35     Welcome back/Introductions

15.35-15.50     Aziz Sohail (Curator, Writer and Researcher), ‘A Changed World: London, Karachi: 1985–1999’

15.50-16.05     Charmaine Toh (Curator, National Gallery Singapore), ‘First Move: Tang Da Wu in London’

16.05-16.20     Chanon Kenji Praepipatmongkol (Curator, Singapore Art Museum), ‘Human, Person, Friend: Subjects of Comparative Religion in Postwar Thai Art’

16.20-16.45     Discussion & Questions

16.45-17.15     Optional breakout rooms for continued discussion

11 June: Bureaucracy and Agency – Zoom Webinar, 13:00–16:15

Chair: Karin Zitzewtiz (Interim Chair of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, Michigan State University)

13.00-13.15     Welcome & Introductions

13.15-14.00     Keynote Paper: Zainub Verjee (Artist, Writer & Critic), ‘Past Disquiet of World Making: a Normative Enquiry into the Festival of India in London (1982)’

14.00-14.15     Discussion and Questions

14.15-14.30     Break

14.30-14.35     Welcome back/Introductions

14.35-14.55     Aparna Kumar (Lecturer, Art and Visual Cultures of the Global South, UCL), ‘Leveraging a Royal Coordinate: Partition and Museum Diplomacy across London and Lahore’

14.55-15.15     Sanjukta Sunderason (Assistant Professor, History of Art, University of Amsterdam), ‘De/constructing Commonwealth Art Today, 1962’

15.15-15.45     Discussion & Questions

15.45-16.15     Optional breakout rooms for continued discussion

WEEK FOUR

17 June: Aesthetics and Ways of Knowing – Zoom Webinar, 12:00–15:15

Chair: Dorothy Price (Professor of History of Art, University of Bristol and Editor of Art History journal)

12.00-12.15     Welcome & Introductions

12.15-13.00     Keynote Paper: Shigemi Inaga (Dean, Department of Global Studies, Faculty of Global Culture, Kyoto Seika University), ‘If You’re Fluent in English, Put on Japanese Kimono Abroad. But if Your English Is Awful, Better Be Dressed in Western Attire.’

13.00-13.15     Discussion and Questions

13.15-13.30     Break

13.30-13.35     Welcome back/Introductions

13.35-13.50     Sadia Shirazi (Writer, Curator and Art Historian), ‘Zarina: A Postcolonial Grid’

13.50-14.05     Elena Crippa (Curator of Modern and Contemporary British Art, Tate), ‘Kim Lim’s Early Work: Reconfiguration and Reconciliation’

14.05-14.20     Eva Bentcheva (Art Historian and Curator), ‘Incommensurable Abstractions: Rasheed Araeen and Prafulla Mohanti’s Performances between Britain and South Asia’

14.20-14.45     Discussion & Questions

15.45-15.15     Optional breakout rooms for continued discussion

WEEK 5

24 June: Thinking Through Empire – Zoom Webinar, 13:00–16:15

Chair: Wenny Teo (Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Asian Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art)

13.00-13.15     Welcome & Introductions

13.15-14.00     Keynote Paper: Rana Mitter (Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China, and a Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford), ‘The Making, Breaking and Return of Empire – 1750 to 2021 and Beyond’

14.00-14.15     Discussion and Questions

14.15-14.30     Break

14.30-14.35     Welcome back/Introductions

14.35-14.50     Dipti Khera (Associate Professor, Art History and Institute of Fine Arts, NYU), ‘From Udaipur’s Streets to London’s Stephenson Way: Sensing Historical Moods between the Visual Worlds and Archived Words of Ghasi, Waugh, Finden, and Tod’

14.50-15.05     Toshio Wantanabe (Professor for Japanese Arts and Cultural Heritage, University of East Anglia), ‘Watercolour Landscape of “Japan” in Victorian London, Meiji Tokyo and Colonial Taipei: Shifts in the Canon’    

15.05-15.20     Gemma Sharpe (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Art History, City University of New York), ‘The Odder Story: Iqbal Geoffrey’s London’

15.20-15.45     Discussion & Questions

15.45-16.15     Optional breakout rooms for continued discussion

25 June: Thinking from Asia – Zoom Webinar, 12:00–15:15

Chair: Yeewan Koon (Associate Professor and Chair of the Fine Arts Department, University of Hong Kong)

12.00-12.15     Welcome & Introductions

12.15-13.00     Keynote Paper: Patrick Flores (Professor of Art Studies, Department of Art Studies, University of the Philippines), ‘Aroundness, Awareness: To Rework Art Out of Asia’

13.00-13.15     Discussion and Questions

13.15-13.30     Break

13.30-13.35     Welcome back/Introductions

13.35-13.50     Amrita Dhallu (Curator and Researcher), ‘Subcontinentment: Diasporas, Futurisms, Worldbuilding’

13.50-14.05     Farida Batool (Independent Artist, Researcher and Educationist) and Sehr Jalil (Visual Artist, Researcher, Writer and a PhD Candidate), ‘Contesting Public(s) and Art Education in Pakistan’

14.05-14.20     Stephanie Bailey (Editor-in-Chief, Ocula Magazine), ‘Thinking Through Empire from Asia: An Object Lesson’

14.20-14.45     Discussion & Questions

14.45-15.15     Break

15.15-16.00     Conference wrap-up discussion with Hammad Nasar, John Tain, Ming Tiampo and Sarah Victoria Turner

Speaker abstracts and biographies (in order of appearence)

27 May: Sociality and Affect – Zoom Webinar, 13:00–16:15    

Keynote Paper: Leela Gandhi (John Hawkes Professor of Humanities and English at Brown University), ‘Invisible, Inc.’

This talk examines circuits of anti-nuclear pacifism as part of a meditation on different ways of thinking about abstraction in the mid-twentieth-century – different in genre, discipline, and in terms of cultural context. Such incongruous, multimedia genealogies of abstraction give us an unexpected template for epistemological nonviolence, and perhaps for nonviolence, as such. The Cold War is a backdrop for the inquiry.

Leela Gandhi is John Hawkes Professor of Humanities and English at Brown University. She has taught at the University of Chicago, Delhi University, and La Trobe University, and held visiting professorships in Australia, Denmark, India, Italy and Iran. She is founding co-editor of the journal Postcolonial Studies, board member of Postcolonial Text, and a Senior Fellow of the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University. Her publications include Postcolonial Theory (Revised Second Edition, 2019), The Common Cause (2015), Affective Communities (2006), and Measures of Home: Selected Poems (2000).

Simone Wille (Art Historian), ‘Krishna Reddy between Santiniketan, London, Paris, Ljubljana, and Vienna: Cold War Friendships and Networks, Collaborations and Aesthetic Solidarities’

By following artist Krishna Reddy’s (1925–2018) route from pre- and post-partition India to postwar London, Paris and from there to Central Europe, this paper will read artistic practice in response to Cold War friendships, collaborations, and aesthetic affinities on a planetary scale. The focus will be on some of the postwar years established and emerging new art centers, art discourses and international platforms to which Reddy actively and engagingly contributed, thereby pointing to the complex and polycentric globalisation of the 1950s and early 1960s. Given Reddy’s extensive transnational experience, exposure and itinerary this paper will respond to the conference framework London, Asia, by making a proposition towards the rethinking of the history of modern art as global, interconnected and above all informed by transnational friendships, networks, solidarities and encounters.

Simone Wille is an art historian. She currently directs the research project Patterns of Trans-regional Trails. The Materiality of Art Works and Their Place in the Modern Era. Bombay, Paris, Prague, Lahore, ca. 1920s to early 1950s, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). Wille’s publications include her books Modern Art in Pakistan. History, Tradition, Place. New Delhi: Routledge, 2015 and André Lhote and His International Students, Zeynep Kuban, Simone Wille (eds.), Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press, 2020. She is associated with the University of Innsbruck and is based in Vienna.

Greg Salter (Lecturer, University of Birmingham), ‘Queer Britain and Queer India?: Sunil Gupta in the 1980s’

This paper addresses the transnational relationships between India and Britain that are traced and imagined in Sunil Gupta’s photography from the 1980s. It brings works from Gupta’s Exiles series, 1987 – a series driven by a desire to ‘create some images of gay Indian men’ and which took him back to Delhi, the city where he grew up – into dialogue with series that he produced in London, such as Ten Years On, 1984–6, which captures gay and lesbian couples in domestic spaces just as hysteria about AIDS was taking hold, and ‘Pretended’ Family Relationships, 1989, which responds to Section 28 with depictions of interracial same-sex couples.

Bringing Gupta’s photographic series produced across India and Britain into dialogue, this paper reveals and reflects on the ambivalent though dynamic relationship between the legacies of imperial histories and emerging categories of sexuality on a global scale that such a dialogue makes visible. Gupta’s series make the histories of liberal homosexuality in Britain, AIDS, and men-who-have-sex-with-men in India intimate, where moments of contact and affiliation are present alongside instances of ambiguity and separation, allowing an exploration of how queer art histories change when we move, like Gupta, between Delhi and London.

Greg Salter is a lecturer in art history at the University of Birmingham. He researches and teaches on art in Britain since 1945 with a particular focus on gender and sexuality. His first book is Art and Masculinity in Post-War Britain: Reconstructing Home, published in 2019. His current research project traces the transnational histories of queer art in Britain since the 1960s, with a particular focus on kinship.

3 June: Potential Histories & Solidarities – Zoom Webinar, 13:00–16:15 

Chair: Parul Dave-Mukherji (Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

Parul Dave-Mukherji is professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She holds a PhD from Oxford University. Her publications include: InFlux: Contemporary Art in Asia, (co-edited with Naman P. Ahuja and Kavita Singh) Sage, New Delhi, 2013); ’Whither Art History in a Globalizing World’ The Art Bulletin 2014; Arts and Aesthetics in a Globalizing World, (co-edited with Raminder Kaur, Bloomsbury, 2014); ’Art History and Its Discontents in Global Times’ in Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn, eds. Jill H Cassid and Aruna D’Souza, Massachusetts: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2014 ; Ebrahim Alkazi: Directing Art – The Making of a Modern Indian Art World (ed. Mapin, New Delhi 2016); Rethinking Aesthetics in a Comparative Frame (co-edited with R. N. Misra), IIAS, Shimla 2020). Her forthcoming publication  20th Century Indian Art (co-edited with Partha Mitter and Rakhee Balaram) will be published by Thames and Hudson, London, by the fall of 2021.

David Morris (Research Fellow and Editor at Afterall), ‘Artists for Democracy and the Vietnam Festival (1975)’

Artists for Democracy formed in London in 1974 to give ‘material and cultural support to liberation movements worldwide’. They chose to do this through a festival, The Arts Festival for Democracy in Chile, which took place later the same year – a two-week gathering of performance, exhibition and discussion that emerged as ‘a space of conversation and mutual apprenticeship ... that brought together artists from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas in a multifaceted conglomerate’ (Vicuña 2013). The founding group (including Guy Brett, John Dugger, David Medalla and Cecilia Vicuña) subsequently broke apart, and AFD was reconstructed and found new allies, such as Rasheed Araeen, continuing until 1977. 

This contribution will address phases and contradictions in modes of solidarity and collective practice as seen through AFD, with particular attention to their 1975 festival and collective exhibition for Vietnam – described at the time as ‘a series of environments made of simple, often waste, materials’ – the details of which are little-known. The contribution will develop a historical account and analysis of the festival through the perspectives of participants and others with a stake in its legacies. 

Considering the festival’s positioning with and towards Southeast Asia, this contribution will also use these accounts and moments to gain perspective on contemporary questions of solidarity, artist organising and the festival-as-form.

David Morris lives in London. He is a research fellow and editor at Afterall, working particularly on the Exhibition Histories series. His work explores different approaches to artistic research, education and exhibition, with a particular focus on experimental and collective practice. He is co-editor, with Sylvère Lotringer, of Schizo-Culture: The Event, The Book (Semiotext(e)/The MIT Press, 2014); with David Teh, of Artist-to-Artist: Independent Art Festivals in Chiang Mai 1992–98 (Afterall Books, 2018) among other publications. With Helena Vilalta he leads a research masters' programme in exhibition studies at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

Maryam Ohadi-Hamadani (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Yale Center for British Art), ‘A Little Too Much “Commonwealth New Vision”’

In the 1960s, independent galleries like New Vision Centre, Gallery One, Woodstock Gallery and Indica Gallery gave artists immigrating from the Caribbean and South Asia their first solo exhibitions in London, but as Balraj Khanna put it regarding his own experiences in trying (and failing) to find gallery representation as a young artist: ‘Black has never been beautiful in Cork Street.’ During this decade, the ‘Commonwealth’ proliferated as an organizing principle for group exhibitions throughout Britain of work by émigré artists from the new Commonwealth.

Anxiety surrounding Britain’s standing as a world power in the wake of decolonization led to soft power attempts by various governmental organizations including the Central Office of Information to promote the growing Commonwealth abroad and at home, which also included exhibitions of contemporary art. Official exhibitions held at the Commonwealth Institute including Commonwealth Art Today (1962), or the Royal Academy of Art’s 1965 exhibition Treasures from the Commonwealth contrasted with artist-organized exhibitions such as New Vision Centre’s Transferences at Zwemmer Gallery (1958) and the Commonwealth Biennales of Abstract Art in 1963 and 1965.

Borne out of necessity owing to a lack of exhibiting opportunities, these artists, many of them students, would form coalitions like The Young Commonwealth Artists and the Commonwealth Painters Group as platforms to exhibit their work in solidarity and in response to their exclusion from mainstream exhibitions such as the annual Young Contemporaries exhibitions. By examining these exhibitions and others, and the early career practices of artists including Anwar Jalal Shemza, Avinash Chandra, Aubrey Williams, and Frank Bowling, this paper provides a situational and contextual understanding of these short-lived networks that formed during this period. Focusing specifically on the politics of postwar abstraction and the sociopolitical implications of immigration legislation and Commonwealth cultural production in Britain, this paper also grapples with concepts of the universal and particular which framed exhibiting practices and critical reception during this period of burgeoning globalization. 

Maryam Ohadi-Hamadani is a postdoctoral research associate at the Yale Center for British Art. Her research interests include postcolonial cultural studies, critical race theory, transnationality and diaspora, and the politics of postwar abstraction and visual culture. She has curated exhibitions for the Cleveland Foundation and the Wichita Art Museum, and has held positions at the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; the Ulrich Museum of Art; and Tate Liverpool. Currently, Ohadi-Hamadani is working on two upcoming exhibitions at the Center, a survey of work by Bridget Riley and an exhibition of prints and drawings from the permanent collection. She has published on artist Denis Williams in NKA: Journal of Contemporary Art (November 2019) and her chapter ‘The Commonwealth of British Pop: Race, Labor and Postcolonial Politics in Frank Bowling’s Mother’s House series’ in Pop Art and Beyond: Gender, Race and Class in the Global Sixties (Bloomsbury, 2021) is forthcoming.

4 June: Circulation & Encounter – Zoom Webinar, 13:00–16:15

Chair: Hammad Nasar (Senior Research Fellow, Paul Mellon Centre)

Keynote: Hew Locke (Artist) and Tim Barringer (Paul Mellon Professor in the History of Art, Yale University) in Conversation, ‘East Indian West Indian’

Growing-up in multi-cultural, non-aligned Guyana (formerly British Guiana) meant dealing daily with the cultural, political and religious complexities of a post-colonial society. Here the largest ethnic grouping consists of Indo-Guyanese descendants of indentured servants, followed by Afro-Guyanese. I grew up in the 1970s – a world of Flying Pigeon bikes from China and Tata school buses from India. I saw the Chinese State Circus and Opera. In the cinema, Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood, Mera Naam Joker and Haath Mere Saathi were hits –  Amitabh Bachcan came to visit. Everybody celebrated every national holiday; Christmas, Paghwah and Eid. This is the soup out of which my practice has emerged, and my presentation will look at how these influences have impacted on my work.

Since I arrived in London aged twenty, it’s the international nature of this city, with its many ‘nations’, and it’s grouping of world-museums, that has been essential to my practice. London has been the place to process and understand the many aspects of my identity. 

I explore the languages of colonial and post-colonial power, and how different cultures fashion their identities. Artists with complex, hard-to-label identities have until recently been overlooked by the Art World. We were not an easy sell – we didn’t fit into any box. 

Hew Locke was born in Edinburgh, spent his formative years in Guyana before returning to the UK, eventually completing an MA in sculpture at the Royal College of Art in 1994. He has exhibited extensively internationally, and his work has been included in Prospect New Orleans Contemporary Art Biennial, New Orleans, LA, USA (2014) and Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art (2016). In 2010, Locke's work, Sikandar, was shortlisted for the Fourth Plinth, London and in 2015, he was commissioned to create The Jurors, a public artwork commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, for which he was nominated for the 2016 Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture.

Locke’s work explores the languages of colonial and post-colonial power, how different cultures fashion their identities through visual symbols of authority, and how these representations are altered by the passage of time. Public statues, trophies, weaponry and the costumes and regalia of state are appropriated in his sculptures, wall-hangings, installations and photographs in a continued deconstruction of state powers and histories. He is known for his portraits of the British royal family and traditional symbols of imperial authority. He uses ships as images, objects and physical sites for artistic intervention, discovering in them a potent symbol as an instrument of control in warfare, trade and culture. He has also initiated a series of altered share certificates, now-obsolete documents referring to this same violent, turbulent history of colonial trade, ownership and power, as well as subtly referencing the contemporary art world’s participation in commodity culture.

Timothy Barringer grew up in Yorkshire and completed his PhD at the University of Sussex. After working at the V&A and University of Birmingham, he moved in 1998 to Yale University where he is now Paul Mellon Professor and Chair of the Department of the History of Art. His research focuses on questions of class, race and empire in British art, the art of the British Empire and of the United States.

His books include Reading the Pre-Raphaelites (1999; new edition, 2012) and Men at Work: Art and Labour in Victorian Britain (2005). With colleagues he has co-edited collections of essays including Colonialism and the Object (1998); Art and the British Empire (2007) and Victorian Jamaica (2018). He was co-curator of American Sublime (2002); Art and Emancipation in Jamaica (2007); Before and After Modernism: Byam Shaw, Rex Vicat Cole and Yinka Shonibare (2010); Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (2012); Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings (2018), Unto this Last: Two Hundred Years of John Ruskin (2019–20) and Radical Victorians (2019–21). His is finishing books titled Broken Pastoral: Art and Music in Britain, Gothic Revival to Punk Rock and Global Landscape: British Art in the Age of Empire, based on the Paul Mellon lectures given in London in 2019.

Devika Singh (Curator, Tate Modern), ‘A Third World “Predicament”? Ebrahim Alkazi and London-Asia Circulation’ (pre-recorded talk)

The paper examines the circulation, proximity and unequal encounters between London and Asia by focusing on exhibitions organised by artist, dealer and theatre director Ebrahim Alkazi. Born in Pune in 1925 to Saudi Arabian parents, Alkazi spent formative years in London in the late 1940s and later curated one of the main exhibitions of the UK’s 1982 Festival of India. Building on original research in Britain and India, the paper analyses Alkazi’s heterodox modes of affiliation and negotiation with modernism from a former colony. Moving from the promotion of Western art in India to the presentation of Indian art in the UK, the paper is articulated around two exhibitions Alkazi curated; This is Modern Art, a suite of exhibitions of European art presented in Bombay in the mid-1950s, and Myth and Reality (Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1982), organised with David Elliott and Victor Musgrave. This exhibition, together with others then happening in the UK, sought according to Alkazi to ‘cover the Third World countries, and show their distinctive achievements and their predicament’.

Moreover, for Alkazi and his peers associated with a critical Third Worldism, London and the United Kingdom more broadly served as sites of South Asian creation and self-fashioning as well as battlefields for artistic empowerment. Yet, although the Oxford exhibition operated a shift in Alkazi’s trajectory, the paper argues that both This is Modern Art and Myth and Reality foregrounded the vexed and contested issues of synchronicity and derivativeness – issues that continue to haunt Asian art in British museum and art historical discourses today

Devika Singh is Curator, International Art at Tate Modern. Her work focuses on modern and contemporary art and architecture in South Asia and the transnational history of modernism. She was previously Smuts Research Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies of the University of Cambridge and a fellow at the Centre allemand d’histoire de l’art in Paris. She holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and was an AHRC fellow at the Kluge Center, Library of Congress, Washington DC; a Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) fellow at the Freie Universität, Berlin; an André Chastel fellow at the French Academy at Rome (Villa Medici) and a resident of the Office for Contemporary Art, Oslo (OCA)’s International Studio Programme. Her writing has appeared widely in exhibition catalogues, specialised magazines and in the journals Art HistoryModern Asian StudiesJournal of Art Historiography and Third Text. Singh curated exhibitions including Planetary Planning (Dhaka Art Summit, 2018) and Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan (Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, 2019–20) and co-curated Gedney in India (Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, CSMVS, Mumbai, 2017; Duke University, 2018).  

Michelle Wong (PhD Candidate), ‘Overlay Pages, Stitched Worlds: On Ha Bik Chuen’s Creative and Archival Practice’

This paper forms part of my ongoing PhD investigation into the art and archive practice of the late Hong Kong artist Ha Bik Chuen (b. 1925, Guangdong, d. 2009, Hong Kong). A selftaught artist who never received academic training, Ha created a vast personal archive of Warburgian quality that functioned as a world of visual references informing his oeuvre across print making, sculptures and book collages. I argue that the position of Hong Kong as a port city and British colony until 1997, and its proximity to other regions within Asia, played a key role in shaping Ha’s visual world.

This paper focuses on Ha’s expansive library of books and periodicals that date from the 1950s to the 2000s, and considers how he positioned himself in the world through the consumption of publications and images. I will look at how through looking, archiving, and collaging across disciplines, Ha consumed and internalised an expanded world of art and visual culture that converged upon Hong Kong. Ha’s archive becomes a case study that shows how for artists in mid-twentieth century Asia, especially those who were self-taught, being interdisciplinary was an important strategy at a time when art traveling and art school training opportunities were scarce. 

Michelle Wong is a PhD student in art history at the University of Hong Kong. From 2012–20 she was a researcher at Asia Art Archive, with a focus on Hong Kong art history and histories of exchange and circulation through exhibitions and periodicals. Her projects at AAA included the exhibition Portals, Stories, and Other Journeys at Tai Kwun Contemporary (2021), the Ha Bik Chuen Archive Project, and the Salima Hashmi Archive in Pakistan amongst others. She was Assistant Curator of 11th Edition of Gwangju Biennale (2016), and she independently runs the long term curatorial/collective project Sightlines with artist Wei Leng Tay. She was a 2019 Pernod Ricard fellow at Villa Vassilieff & Bétonsalon, Centre for Art and Research, Paris. In 2020, she developed a series of episodes around the deliberation of discursive justice with Lantian Xie and Kabelo Maltsie, as part of Afterglow, Yokohama Triennale 2020, artistically directed by Raqs Media Collective. Her writing has been published in Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art, 1945–1990 (2018), the journal Southeast of Now (2019), Oncurating and Ocula Magazine.

10 June: Pedagogy and Learning – Zoom Webinar, 14:00–17:15 

Chair: Ming Tiampo (Professor of Art History, and co-director of the Centre for Transnational Cultural Analysis at Carleton University)

Ming Tiampo is Professor of Art History, and co-director of the Centre for Transnational Cultural Analysis at Carleton University. She is interested in transcultural models and histories that provide new structures for understanding and reconfiguring the global. She has published on Japanese modernism, global modernisms, and diaspora. Tiampo’s book Gutai: Decentering Modernism (University of Chicago Press, 2011) received an honorable mention for the Robert Motherwell book award. In 2013, she was co-curator of the AICA award-winning Gutai: Splendid Playground at the Guggenheim Museum in NY. Tiampo is currently working on three publication projects, Transnational Cities, which theorizes the scale of the urban as a mode of reimagining transcultural intersections and the historical conditions of global modernism; Intersecting Modernisms, a collaborative sourcebook on global modernisms; and Jin-me Yoon, an Art Canada Institute book on the diasporic Korean-Canadian artist. Tiampo is an associate member at ICI Berlin; a member of the Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational Advisory Board; a fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art on the London, Asia project and co-convenor of the conference London, Asia, Art, Worlds; a founding member of TrACE, the Transnational and Transcultural Arts and Culture Exchange network, and co-lead on its Worlding Public Cultures project.

Keynote: Naazish Ata-Ullah (Former Principal of the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan), 'Multi-layered histories: evolving pedagogies in Pakistan’s pioneering art school'

Professor Naazish Ata-Ullah is an artist, educator, curator, writer, social and human rights activist. She is a former Principal of the National College of Arts, Lahore where she began teaching in the mid 1980’s. During her extensive career she made major contributions towards institution-building at the NCA including founding and developing its printmaking department, its first studio Masters program, its library infrastructure and preservation, and its international exchange programs. She retired from Government service in 2010.

Ata-Ullah has exhibited in Pakistan and abroad and has lectured widely, authored monographs, contributed to academic books and journals and curated exhibitions in Pakistan, in Finland and in the UK. She has served in a vast number of advisory roles at academic, cultural and social justice institutions. Currently she is a member of various academic boards, and is a member of the Punjab Higher Education Commission.

Ata-Ullah studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and the Institute of Education, UCL, London and is a graduate of the National College of Arts and Kinnaird College for Women. She is a Senior Fellow in the School of Visual Art and Design at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore. The Republic of France awarded her the title of Knight in the Order of Arts and Literature in 2010, for services to art and culture, and the NCA conferred her with its Fellowship. She lives and works in Lahore, and continues to teach.

Aziz Sohail (Curator, Writer and Researcher), ‘A Changed World: London, Karachi: 1985–1999’

This presentation delineates key moments of the encounter between London and Karachi from the 1980s through the 1990s by examining the artistic and pedagogical practice of David Alesworth and Durriya Kazi and their resultant impact on other artists in Karachi. Along with Iftikhar Dadi, Elizabeth Dadi, Naiza Khan, and Samina Ansari, Kazi and Alesworth were key interlocutors as first generation of the so-called Karachi Pop movement. Both studied at Wimbledon School of Art in the 1980s where they first met. Set against the backdrop the Black Arts Movement and discourse around representation of identity and the nation as well as the inclusion of diverse artistic practices led by individuals such as Rasheed Araeen, Kazi, in particular was inspired to seek answers towards the potential of the encounter between high art and vernacular popular culture through her thesis on truck art, which she further developed as a collaborative traveling artistic project, Art Caravan, in 1992 in Karachi.

Through their pedagogical practice at various art schools, including the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi School of Art and Karachi University, both also fostered the development of many practices that also began to address these discourses in their work, inspired by the rich visual culture of the city of Karachi. The UK continued to be a strong influence in these encounters, in particular through the fiftieth independence anniversary exhibition on British sculpture, A Changed World, organized by the British Council, which Alesworth’s students at that time also helped to organize and produce. Set against a broader constellation of exchange and community in Karachi during the 1990s, which I have intensively researched and presented, I now turn my attention to the otherwise underexplored encounter between London and Karachi through pedagogy and circulation and its impact on these discourses in the 1990s that continues to inspire artists today. 

Aziz Sohail is an art curator, writer and researcher whose work is focused on building interdisciplinary connections and supporting new cultural and pedagogical infrastructures. Since 2020, with The Many Headed Hydra, he has been co-leading a language where yesterday are the same word. Kal, a trans*oceanic platform supporting practices enacting queer pasts/futures and decolonial ecologies. His current research is a meditation on the longue-duree intersections of sexuality and colonialism with migration, law and identity through the work of practitioners who navigate empire(s) and its afterlives.

Previously he has been part of curatorial residencies and workshops with The New Art Gallery Walsall, England (2015), Curatorial Intensive South Asia 2018, Khoj, New Delhi, the Nepal Picture Library (2019), and the Young Curators Academy, Maxim Gorki Theater, Germany (2019). He has worked with organizations such as the British Council and the Lahore Biennale Foundation to build new cultural initiatives and spaces in Pakistan. As a South Asia Fellow at Cornell University in 2017, he began a long term project building an archive of cultural and visual production in Karachi from the 1990s through today which led to an exhibition-symposium at the Sharjah Art Foundation (2019). 

Charmaine Toh (Curator, National Gallery Singapore), ‘First Move: Tang Da Wu in London’

Artist Tang Da Wu (b. 1943) is a seminal figure in contemporary art in Singapore. He is credited for influencing a generation of artists, particularly through The Artists’ Village, an artist-run space he set up in his own home after his return from the UK in 1988. Tang had first moved from Singapore to the UK in 1971, spending four years at Birmingham Polytechnic for his undergraduate degree, followed by two years at St Martins School of Art for further studies in sculpture and finally two years at Goldsmith’s College in the mid-1980s for his MFA. There has been surprisingly little scholarship about Tang’s time in the UK, but the period was a defining one where he established much of his core ideals on art as an open-ended and participatory practice; ideals which he subsequently fostered in Singapore. This presentation takes a historical and biographical approach to highlight certain aspects of Tang’s time in Birmingham and London. It will draw from a two-year-long research project that has included numerous interviews with the artist and recently unearthed archival material.

Charmaine Toh received her PhD from the University of Melbourne and is a curator at National Gallery Singapore. Her research primarily looks at modern and contemporary art in Southeast Asia, with a focus on photography. Recent exhibitions include Chua Soo Bin: Truths & LegendsAwakenings: Art in Society in Asia. Previously, Charmaine was the Programme Director at Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film. She also co-curated the 2013 Singapore Biennale.

Chanon Kenji Praepipatmongkol (Curator, Singapore Art Museum), ‘Human, Person, Friend: Subjects of Comparative Religion in Postwar Thai Art’

What is known as ‘neo-traditional’ Thai painting – with its Buddhist subject matter and formal basis in temple muralism – today appears a relic of a bygone moment. In most accounts, the meteoric boom of the genre during the 1980s and 1990s closely tracked the direction of state ideology and the fortunes of the nouveau riche in a rapidly globalizing economy. Lest this lineage of artistic practice devolve into a strawman for bourgeois nationalism, this paper seeks to historicize Thai neo-traditionalism as part of a transnational narrative of art and intellectual history. The ascendance of artists like Thawan Duchanee and Chalermchai Kositpipat owed much to a widely shared interest among Thai elites to promote the place of Buddhism in an international arena. That this story features a peculiarly British-educated cast – Khien Yimsiri (Chelsea College of Arts), Damrong Wong Uparaj (Slade School of Fine Art), Sulak Sivaraksa (Wales; SOAS), Kukrit Pramoj (Oxford) – has gone largely unnoticed.

I argue that these artists and writers – whose Anglophone education in comparative religion and exposure to the ideas of Buddhist reformists like B.R. Ambedkar – saw in the inheritance of Thai mural painting a way to work through the question of relationships between the native and the foreign, the friend and the enemy, and the human and the creaturely. This paper will focus specifically on an incident at the Thai Christian Student Association in 1971, where Thawan’s paintings of chimeric human-animal-architectural figures were slashed by vandals. The iconoclastic act prompted far-ranging discussions among public intellectuals that reveal the ways in which neo-traditional painting came to be imagined as the ideal vehicle of a peculiarly Buddhist-inflected internationalism, one mediated through the concept of phuen manut (literally, ‘friends of humans’; usually translated as ‘fellow men’ or ‘fellow creatures’).

Chanon Kenji Praepipatmongkol is an art historian, writer, and Curator at Singapore Art Museum. He holds a PhD from University of Michigan, and previously held fellowships at Tate Britain and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. His research investigates, in the broadest sense, unorthodox formations of psychosocial and intellectual attachments to art – a line of inquiry that spans art history, anthropology, media theory, and religious studies. His writing has appeared in Artforum, Aperture, and British Art Studies, with the essay ‘David Medalla: Dreams of Sculpture’ forthcoming in Oxford Art Journal.

11 June: Bureaucracy and Agency – Zoom Webinar, 13:00–16:15 

Chair: Karin Zitzewtiz (Interim Chair of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, Michigan State University)

Karin Zitzewitz is the Interim Chair of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design at Michigan State University, where she teaches art history. She is the author of The Art of Secularism: The Cultural Politics of Modernist Art in Contemporary India (2014) and The Perfect Frame: Presenting Indian Art:  Stories and Photographs from the Kekoo Gandhy Collection (2003). She curated exhibitions by Pakistani artist Naiza Khan (2013) and Indian artist Mithu Sen (2014) for the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. Her research has been supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the American Institute for Indian Studies, and the Fulbright program. Her new book, Infrastructure and Form: Contemporary Art, Globalization, India, 1991–2008 is forthcoming from the University of California Press.

Keynote Paper: Zainub Verjee (Artist, Writer & Critic), ‘Past Disquiet of World Making: a Normative Enquiry into the Festival of India in London (1982)’

This keynote will address the world making in post World War II decolonization. Taking the Festival of India (FOI) held in London in 1982, as the primary site of multiple contestations in the context of ‘structure of racial hierarchy’ of international relations, it will examine the role of cultural diplomacy and cultural bureaucrats in politics and their impact on the manifest cultural staging in form of exhibitions, festivals, and museums. What is the consequent impact of these on the very political frameworks that instigate them? What role does a bureaucrat play and what agency does it offer both to the institution and the discourse that is produced? Given the context of the newly decolonized nations as subjects rather than agents of imperial globalization, the keynote will trace the genealogy of FOI to British Arts Festival of 1951. The keynote will make a case for decolonization of cultural diplomacy and cultural policy, while addressing the inherent negotiations required for the production and visualization of ‘national cultures’ in a world of deep-seated global inequalities.

Zainub Verjee has over four decades built a formidable reputation as an artist, writer, critic, cultural administrator and public intellectual. A firm believer in art as public good, she has contributed to international instruments of culture such as Status of the Artist and Cultural Diversity. An active member of civil society, she was the Vancouver Moderator of the Spicer Commission – The Citizen's Forum on Canada's Future. 

Deeply engaged with the UK’s British Black Arts, Third Cinema and the post-Bandung decolonization, Tactical Video Movement, Zainub has been embedded in the early years of Vancouver’s photo-conceptualism movement as well as history of women’s labour in British Columbia. An internationalist, in 1989, she co-founded the critically acclaimed In Visible Colours, a foundational film festival of third world women and women of colour filmmakers in Canada. In 1992, she was awarded National Film Board Fellowship as part of New Initiatives in Film for women of colour and aboriginal women. Her work has been shown internationally, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Venice Biennale. 

She is engaged on issues of artists’ labour and income and co-authored an open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada on behalf of 75000 artists, initiating a national campaign. Her work as a cultural bureaucrat, cultural diplomat, artist, activist and writer has been consistent and contiguous with what might be termed a critical transversal aesthetic. 

Recipient of many honours and awards, Zainub Verjee is the laureate of 2020 Governor General's Visual and Media Arts for Outstanding Contribution. 

Aparna Kumar (Lecturer, Art and Visual Cultures of the Global South, UCL), ‘Leveraging a Royal Coordinate: Partition and Museum Diplomacy across London and Lahore’

This paper positions London as a principal coordinate in the division of museum collections between India and Pakistan following the partition of 1947. It unearths the tortuous journey of the 1500 objects of art and archeology sent from Bombay to London for the Royal Academy of Art’s now-canonical Exhibition of Art, Chiefly from the Dominions of India and Pakistan. These art objects, sourced from public and private collections from across the Indian subcontinent, arrived in London in October 1947 amid extraordinary circumstances: while in transit, their homeland was carved into two separate nation-states. This upheaval of place, humanity, and identity in South Asia had a number of ramifications for the objects’ time in London. It complicated their display, as symbols of an authentic ‘Indian’ heritage; it also complicated their return in 1948, when both India and Pakistan claimed the objects as their rightful national patrimony.

The negotiations that followed the Royal Academy exhibition suspended the objects in a state of harrowing uncertainty, wherein they were recategorized, separated, dismantled, and in some cases used as political leverage in other partition contests. The Royal Academy of Arts, too, was thrust to the center of this larger dispute. As the objects’ caretaker in London, it became a de facto arbiter in India and Pakistan’s broader clashes over objects, museums, histories, and representation, in a moment when cultural boundaries in South Asia were far from clear. This paper also, thus, foregrounds the vital diplomatic role British art institutions played (and continue to play) in processes of decolonization and nationalization in South Asia.

Aparna Kumar is Lecturer in Art and Visual Cultures of the Global South at University College London. She received her Ph.D. in Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2018. Her research and teaching span modern and contemporary South Asian art, twentieth century-partition history, museum studies, and postcolonial theory. Aparna’s current book project examines the impact of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 on the development of aesthetic discourses in India and Pakistan in the twentieth century. 

Sanjukta Sunderason (Assistant Professor, History of Art, University of Amsterdam), ‘De/constructing Commonwealth Art Today, 1962’

This paper will focus on the exhibition Commonwealth Art Today held in London in 1962, right after the formation of the Commonwealth Institute. By drawing a selection from artists from the former/colonies, this exhibition, as I will try to show, was doing two critical things: first, selecting/shaping the parameters of what would be representative of the ‘national’ – often via the figures who steered such selections at national levels; and second, generating – even if in theory – a potentially dialogical transnational category of the ‘commonwealth’ in art. Such plays – of national and transnational frames – were integral to similar forums from the post-Second World War decades of intersecting politics of decolonization and the Cold War in the 1950s–1970s.

As my paper will show, such exhibitions at the institute – with ambitions of shaping both the national and the international – were critical ingredients in constituting the forms as well as discursive power of postcolonial modernisms. Using Commonwealth Art Today as a case study, I will unpack in this paper, some constituent ‘transnational’ questions that can connect the different contexts exhibited, and reflect on the wider institutional role the Institute was playing. 

Sanjukta Sunderason is a historian of twentieth century aesthetics, who works at the interfaces of visual art and political thought. She is interested in particular