Collections and GalleriesThe V&A’s South Asian collection has its origins in the India Museum, founded by the East India Company in 1799. The Museum’s collection was dispersed in 1879 and much of it, notably textiles and decorative arts, came to the South Kensington Museum, later renamed the V&A. The South Kensington Museum had also been acquiring Indian art since its inception, and these two collections, combined with acquisitions that continue to the present day, have made the V&A one of the world’s most significant museums for the study of art and design from South Asia.
The V&A is particularly renowned for its Mughal court arts, paintings and textiles. Highlights from the collection are in the Nehru Gallery. Sculptures and other artefacts belonging to the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions are shown in the adjacent galleries (47 A and 47B). The first phase of the new Robert H.N.Ho Family Foundation Galleries of Buddhist Art opened to the public on 3 August 2015. Devoted to images of the Buddha Shakyamuni from India, Southeast Asia, and China, it traces the spread of Buddhism and its arts from its Indian homeland.
The Indian reserve collections can be viewed by appointment. Paintings are in the South and South-East Asia Study Room on the V&A site; textiles from the reserve collection can be seen at the Clothworkers’ Centre, Blythe Road. Other material, including metalwork, arms and armour, furniture and hardstones from India are also at Blythe House and available for study by appointment. Images of the collection are regularly added to the V&A’s Search the Collections database: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/
At the V&A
V&A India Festival 2015
Autumn 2015 is the 25th anniversary of both the opening of the Nehru Gallery and the launch of the Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections. The anniversary is marked by a season of exhibitions and events including:
Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1854-1860
(24 June – 11 October 2015)
The exhibition features some of the earliest and most stunning views of the landscape and architecture of South India and Burma, by a pioneering British photographer. This exhibition is a collaboration between the V&A, who acquired Tripe’s works in the 1860s, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
The Fabric of India
(Curators: Rosemary Crill and Divia Patel; Research Assistant: Avalon Fotheringham; Gallery 39 and North Court; 3 October 2015 – 10 January 2016)
This highlight of the India Festival is the most wide-ranging and visually exciting exhibition of South Asian textiles ever mounted. It features around 250 objects ranging from the 3rd century to the present day, illustrating the skills, variety and adaptability of Indian textile makers, and including previously unseen treasures.
Bejewelled Treasures: the Al Thani Collection
(Curator: Susan Stronge; Research Assistant: Anna Ferrari; Porter Gallery; 21 November 2015 – Jan 2016)
The exhibition includes more than 100 objects drawn from a single private collection, and three additional major loans from the Royal Collection Trust. It explores the broad theme of jewelled objects made in India or inspired by the arts of India.
Displays and digital initiatives will be held to explore the rich and varied culture of South Asia, both past and present, including:
- An installation of a work by Subodh Gupta: When Soak Becomes Spill (Exhibition Road: 24 October 2015 – 31 January 2016)
The Art of Indian Story Telling (Curator: Emma Rogers; 11 August 2015 – 24 January 2016), a V&A display on the Library Landing
- Light installation by Sahil Bagga & Sarthak Sengupta (9 November 2015 – 6 January 2016)
- The Tales We Tell: Indian Warli Painting
(Curator: Teresa Hare Duke; 14 November- July 2016; V&A Museum of Childhood)
This Front Room Gallery exhibition, being developed in collaboration with A FINE LINE, will showcase Warli painting, a tribal art form originating from the Thane region, north of Mumbai, which has had little exposure in the UK. A display of contemporary Warli paintings by Jivya Somesh Mashe, Ramesh Hengadi and others traces the evolution of this art. An installation created through a pictorial exchange between school children in Tower Hamlets and children from Dahanu Thane will also be on view. Warli artists from Thane will be in residence during the display to extend the visual dialogue, working with children from local schools. Musicians Jason Singh and Giuliano Modarelli will perform a Warli inspired musical score developed in the company of the artists. (Supported by the Helen Hamlyn Trust.)
- A website, created in partnership with Darbar, a South Asian classical music organisation, and the Horniman Museum in London, of 19th-century musical instruments from the V&A's collection juxtaposed with footage of leading contemporary musicians playing similar instruments of more modern date, enriched by interviews with the musicians and other experts. A display of a number of the V&A’s 19th century instruments in the Nehru Gallery will be complemented by live performances in the Museum. The event was launched on 16 September 2015 by a concert in the Lecture Theatre.
Exhibitions at the V&A in the recent past include the following:
- Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts (October 2009 – January 2010): The exhibition was presented at the V&A and then in Munich in early 2010. It greatly benefited from an unprecedented number of loans from Indian private and public collections, facilitated by the Indian Ministry of Culture and the National Museum of India.
- Rabindranath Tagore: Poet and Painter (December 2011 – March 2012): A display of 49 paintings of Tagore, organised by the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.
- MF Husain: Master of Modern Indian Painting (May – July 2014): It showcased the final nine paintings by Husain (1915-2011) which together formed Indian Civilization, a series of monumental triptych paintings which represented the artist’s vision of the richness of Indian culture and history.
The V&A has been one of the most active British museums in India in the past 10 years.
- Indian Life and Landscape (2008 – 2010): This exhibition was shown in six Indian museums: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS; formerly the Prince of Wales Museum), Mumbai; Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur; National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata; Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad and the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore. The first international exhibition to tour India, it was seen by over 500,000 people.
- Contemporary Photography: Something That I’ll Never Really See (2010 – 2011): The exhibition was presented at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum (Mumbai), the National Gallery of Modern Art (Bangalore and Delhi), and the Salar Jung Museum (Hyderabad). The tour attracted over 156,000 visitors.
- A Century of Olympic Posters (January – March 2011): This exhibition was shown at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum (Mumbai).
- Kalighat Paintings (2011 – 2012): Opening at the Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata, it attracted 7,000 visitors on its first day alone. After touring to CSMVS in Mumbai and the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, the exhibition closed at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi. The exhibition was seen by over 400,000 visitors in total.
Touring V&A Exhibitions Elsewhere
The rich V&A India collection has been of appeal to audiences across the globe. Major touring exhibitions have included:
- India: The Art of the Temple, an exhibition presented by the Shanghai Museum and the British Museum with the collaboration of the V&A, toured to the Shanghai Museum from August to November 2010 and attracted 682,900 visitors.
- A re-cast version of Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, toured North America from November 2010 to February 2013. The tour attracted over 609,700 visitors.
- The Splendour of India's Royal Courts, which was drawn solely from the V&A's collection, was staged at the Palace Museum, Beijing from April to July 2013. The exhibition drew over 202,800 visitors.
Learning and Audience Engagement
A lively programme of events and activities for adults, children, and families will be held as part of the India Season and particularly to tie in with the Digital Design Weekend (which coincides with LDF) and the Diwali celebrations. The Autumn Half Term Family programme included events themed around Diwali and programmes developed with input from local Jain partners (24 October – 1 November 2015).
- The V&A Asian Art year course includes a module on South Asia. A short course on textiles and jewellery, with V&A curators and conservators among the speakers, coincides with the India Festival. V&A curators contribute to the SOAS Diploma in Asian Art, which draws heavily on museum collections.
- The annual Benjamin Zucker lecture on Mughal Art on 12 November 2015 is by Dr Yael Rice of Amherst College, USA: ‘Lines of Perception: European Prints and the Mughal Workshop’. This is a component of Asian Art in London, the annual event that unites leading Asian dealers, auction houses, and museums. The V&A will stage other small events and talks during the week.
- From January to July 2016, the V&A will be hosting four lectures by distinguished Indian scholars, in honour of Robert Skelton, former Keeper of the Indian Department. The Lecture Series is supported by the Helen Hamlyn Trust:
- 12 January 2016, 19.00-20.30: Dr B.N. Goswamy, ‘Matter of Detail: Indian Painting Seen From Up Close’
- 15 March 2016, 19.00-20.30: Rajkumar Martand Singh in Conversation with Robert Skelton
- 17 May 2016, 19.00-20.30: Dr Naman Ahuju, ‘Eroticism and Mood: Terracottas and Ivories from Ancient India’
- 19 July 2016, 19.00-20.30: Dr Kavita Singh: ‘The Making of Indian Collections’
As part of a capacity building programme for Indian museums supported by the Parasol Foundation Trust, an Education Toolkit to accompany the Kalighat Paintings touring exhibition was produced by the V&A’s Learning Department, in collaboration with the exhibition venues, in September 2011.
Two new Teachers’ Resources link to the permanent collection and the Fabric of India exhibition. Through November early schools exhibition mornings give special access to the show. Schools are also able to visit with the public throughout the duration of its run.
A number of special schools sessions coincide with the India season including Curator Talks for KS 4 & 5, Teacher Twilight training workshops, SEN sessions with hands on tactile activities using Tipu’s Tiger and other objects in the Nehru Gallery and V&A Voyage KS 1 &2 workshops exploring clothing and religious objects from India. In December, a special teacher training session looking at the Bejewelled Treasures exhibition will explore tradition and modernity in Indian jewellery design.
- The V&A hosts Indian scholars via the Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections at the V&A and the Jain Art Fund every year. The Trust, administered by the V&A, awards grants to Indian museum curators, conservators and scholars to come to UK for training and research for up to three months, and also provides travel grants for UK-based scholars to use during study trips to India.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Museum of India, acting on behalf of the Ministry of Culture of India, the V&A, British Library and British Museum resulted in staff exchanges and the provision of professional advice.
- In October 2014, Beth McKillop attended a roundtable discussion (organised by the British Council and attended by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) in Kolkata and Delhi.
- The Museum has been working closely with the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad as well as other institutions such as the Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmadabad, the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur, and the TAPI Collection of Textiles in Surat.
- The V&A collaborates with several UK-based South Asian cultural organisations, including the Nehru Centre (the cultural wing of the Indian High Commission), the Institute of Jainology, the Pandit Ram Sahai Sangit Vidyalaya (PRSSV) Foundation, the UK Punjab Historical Association, the Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail and the South Asian musical organisation Darbar, amongst many others.
- In partnership with the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, the V&A ran a pilot course for Indian museum professionals on Museum Design in Kolkota in 2011. A V&A conservation workshop at NID, funded by the Parasol Foundation Trust, focused on the development of a conservation strategy for NID’s furniture collection.
- The V&A also hosted a one month training programme in the UK for a graphic designer from CSMVS in 2009.
- The V&A signed a MoU with the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, and has a long-standing relationship with the CSMVS in Mumbai. This MoU is now completed.
- The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the National Museum of India, acting on behalf of the Ministry of Culture of India, the V&A, British Library and British Museum resulted in staff exchanges and the provision of professional advice. This ended in June 2015.
- In October 2014, Beth McKillop attended a roundtable discussion (organised by the British Council and attended by the British Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) in Kolkata and Delhi.
Digitisation of the V&A Indian Collection
One of the major outcomes of the MoU with the Ministry of Culture was a collaborative digitisation programme of Indian ‘Company’ paintings in collections in the UK and India. The V&A India Festival 2015 marks the culmination of the next stages of this online cataloguing project, funded by the Parasol Foundation Trust, which has resulted in full catalogue entries and new photography of 8,500 paintings, textiles and hardstones being available on the V&A’s Search the Collections database.
The Museum is also a partner in the JAINpedia manuscript digitisation project, with an associated display of manuscripts and a series of educational events held at the V&A in 2014.
V&A and Parasol Foundation, Capacity Building Programme
The Parasol Foundation Trust supported a programme of skills development and knowledge sharing including: Museum Development Master Classes held in Kolkata by the V&A in collaboration with the British Council in October 2011; Textile Conservation Workshops run in collaboration with the Sutra organisation in Kolkata in November 2011; work placement for Indian conservators and scholars at the V&A in 2011; a workshop on paper and book conservation, led by two V&A conservators, held at the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad in November 2012.
Visitor experience programme
Under the terms of the V&A’s MoU with the Ministry of Culture, India, and with the support of the Parasol Foundation Trust, the V&A ran a course in museum education for Indian museum professionals focusing on the visitor experience. The course was held in June and July in 2012 at the V&A’s Sackler Centre for arts education, focusing on the visitor experience.
Artists’ exchange programme
The V&A Museum of Childhood, in collaboration with Harley Gallery in Nottingham, organised and hosted an international artists’ exchange programme with artists from Ahmedabad and Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2010. The South Asian artists held residencies at the Harley Gallery and the Museum of Childhood in May and June 2010.
The Development Department has longstanding links with Indian contacts. The first Travel with the V&A trips to India were in February 2006, taking a group of supporters to Rajasthan. In January 2012 the Museum organised a trip to Goa and the Deccan for a group of its high level supporters. The V&A has several Indian donors as well as a large group of donors who support the Museum’s South Asian collections.
The V&A is Europe’s leading centre for publications on the arts of India with an active and productive strand of scholarly, exhibition and general titles by the museum’s curators. We have a long tradition of publishing books on Indian subjects, and many books by V&A authors have had Indian co-publishers or Indian editions, including:
- Rosemary Crill, Steven Cohen, Divia Patel, Fabric of India (V&A, 2015; Indian edition: Roli Books, 2015)
- Susan Stronge, Bejewelled Treasures: the Al Thani Collection (V&A, 2015; Indian edition: Roli Books, 2015)
- Anna Dallapiccola, South Indian Temple Hangings (V&A/Mapin, 2015)
- Divia Patel, India Contemporary Design: Fashion, Graphics, Interiors (V&A/Roli Publications, 2015)
- Suhashini Sinha (ed.), Kalighat Paintings (V&A/Mapin, 2012)
- Eiluned Edwards, Textiles and Dress of Gujarat (V&A/Mapin, 2011)
- Christopher Breward, Phillip Crang & R. Crill (eds.), British Asian Style; Fashion and Textiles, Past and Present (V&A/Mapin, 2010)
- Rosemary Crill and Kapil Jariwala, The Indian Portrait: 1560-1860 (National Portrait Gallery/Mapin, 2010)
- Susan Stronge, Made for Mughal Emperors (Roli Books/Lustre Press: UK edition I.B. Tauris, 2010)
- Anna Jackson and Amin Jaffer (eds.), Maharaja: The splendour of India’s royal courts (V&A, 2009)
- Susan Stronge, Tipu’s Tigers (V&A, 2009)
- Nick Barnard, Indian Jewellery (V&A, Indian edition: Timeless Books, 2008)
- Rosemary Crill, Chintz: Indian Textiles for the West (V&A, 2008)
- Pauline Rohatgi and Graham Parlett, Indian Life and Landscape by Western Artists (CSMVS, Mumbai, 2008)
- John Guy, Indian Temple Sculpture (V&A, 2007)
- Rosemary Crill (ed.), Textiles from India: the global trade (Kolkata, Seagull Books, 2006)
- Rosemary Crill, Susan Stronge and Andrew Topsfield (eds.), Arts of Mughal India: studies in honour of Robert Skelton (V&A/Mapin, 2004)
- Divia Patel and Rachel Dwyer, Cinema India: The Art of the Hindi Film (Reaktion press/V&A, 2002)
- Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor (V&A, 2002)
- Rosemary Crill, Marwar Painting: A History of the Jodhpur Style (Mumbai, India Book House, 2001)
- Rosemary Crill, Indian Embroidery (V&A, 1999)
- Susan Stronge (ed.), The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms (V&A, 1999)
- Rosemary Crill, Indian Ikat Textiles (V&A/Mapin, 1998)
- John Guy (ed.), Indian Art & Connoisseurship: studies in honour of Douglas Barrett (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi/V&A, 1995)
- John Guy and Deborah Swallow (eds.), Arts of India 1550-1900 (V&A/Mapin, 1990)