The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) is pleased to announce Chithra K.S. as the recipient of the Ila Dalmia FICA Research Grant 2014 for her research project titled Mapping the Museum Discourse on Modern Indian Art – A Case Study of the Picture Gallery at the Baroda Museum (1920-1950).  

The members of the jury included Shukla Sawant, Associate Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetic, JNU; Roobina Korade, Director and Chief Curator, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art; Yashodhara Dalmia, art historian and curator; and Vidya Shivadas, Director, FICA.

The jury found Chithra’s proposal exceptional for its clearly delineated research questions that examined the early years of Picture Gallery at the Baroda Museum between 1920 and 1950. This was the period when the categories of ‘fine arts’ and ‘modern art’ were institutionalised as well as parallel strands of regional and national modernisms put into place within the museum. The jury felt the need to support such a study given the central role Baroda played in shaping future art pedagogy and practice. 

Chithra’s current proposal takes forward her existing research on the discourse on Hindu/Indian art as seen in the collections and system of classifications at various Museums in nineteenth century Great Britain.

This particular research is focused on the early years of Picture Gallery at the Baroda Museum. The Museum was established in 1894 under the visionary ideals of Sayajirao Gaekwad III of the Baroda state. The Picture Gallery came up in 1921 as an extension of the Baroda Museum and attempted to spread the ‘taste of fine arts’.  Initially dominated by the European collections, the focus was soon shifted to Indian collections and the museum began to acquire modern Indian artworks from various exhibitions across India. Alongside the Picture Gallery, the Museum became a hub of activities like public lectures, film shows, special thematic exhibitions and exhibitions of new acquisitions and so on. The topic of modern art figured prominently in these activities. The Museum also started participating in the Indian and international art exhibitions. In general, it played a key role in setting a precedent for the Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University that came up after the independence.

Keeping the period before the establishment of the Faculty of Fine Arts as focal point, the proposed research aims to map the museum discourse on modern Indian art through evaluating collecting, exhibitions and pedagogic activities of the Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery. The materials collated will be directed to enquire into how new notions of ‘fine arts’ and ‘modern art’ were propagated and established through acquisitions and exhibitions. It will closely examine the guiding principles of various curators and their role in the reorganisation of the museum at different historical points.  Finally it will investigate the idea of region and nation that was circulated through the collections and exhibitions.

Chithra K. S. is trained in museology and art history. She completed by Ph.D in Art History from the Faculty of Fine Art, M S University, Baroda in 2010. Her doctoral thesis, titled The Worship of Family Deities: A Study of Divinities, Devotees and Caste Identity in Contemporary Southern Karnataka, evaluated the process of institutionalization as well as museumization of the worship practice besides also looking at the forms of representation of the spirit deities. In 2013 she was awarded the Nehru Trust UK Visiting Fellowship by Nehru Trust to conduct research at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Here she examined the devotional objects in the collection as part of a larger study of Hinduism and the question of ‘Hindu Art’ in the19th century. Between 2011 and 2014, she worked as Project Researcher for Asia Art Archive for its project Baroda Archives: Jyoti Bhatt, Ratan Parimoo, Gulammohammed Sheikh, and K G Subramanyan. She is currently working as an archivist at Tasveer Foundation.