V&A working in and with India

Dost Muhammad, Amir of Afghanistan, with his three sons, painted in Delhi c. 1840.

Dost Muhammad, Amir of Afghanistan, with his three sons, painted in Delhi c. 1840. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Collections and Galleries

The V&A’s Indian collection has its origins in the India Museum, founded by the East India Company in 1798. When this collection was dispersed in 1879, much of the collection, especially the textiles and decorative arts, came to the South Kensington Museum, later named the V&A. The South Kensington Museum had already been collecting Indian art in its own right since its inception, and these two collections combined to make one of the world’s most important holdings of art and design from the subcontinent. Collecting has continued to this day to enhance this superb collection.

Highlights from the collection, which is particularly rich in Mughal court arts, paintings and textiles, are displayed in the evocative architectural setting of the Nehru Gallery. Key pieces of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist sculpture are shown in the adjacent sculpture galleries.

V&A Exhibitions in India

Recent years have seen a varied programme of V&A exhibitions touring to India. Indian Life and Landscape toured six Indian museums in 2008-2010: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS; former 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.

The V&A showed Contemporary Photography: Something That I’ll Never Really See at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai (November 2010–January 2011), two sites of the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore (January–February 2011) and Delhi (March–April 2011) and the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad; and A Century of Olympic Posters at the Bhau Daji Lad (January–March 2011).

Kalighat Paintings opened at the Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata in October 2011, attracting 7,000 visitors on its first day alone.  After touring to CSMVS in Mumbai and the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, the exhibition closed in May 2012 at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi. The exhibition was seen by over 400,000 visitors in total.  Options for touring the exhibition in the UK and internationally are being explored.

Exhibitions at the V&A

Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, held at the V&A and at the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich in 2009/10, greatly benefited from an unprecedented number of loans from Indian private and public collections, facilitated by the Ministry of Culture and the National Museum of India.
Rabindranath Tagore: Poet and Painter  a display of 49 of Tagore’s paintings organised by the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, was shown at the V&A (December 2011–March 2012).

India Design Now will be shown at the V&A in Autumn 2015. In addition to a history of Indian textiles, it will explore the dynamic and multifaceted world of contemporary textile design in India.

Major exhibitions on Indian textiles and Indian paintings are currently being developed.

Touring Exhibitions

A re-cast version of Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, is toured North America (November 2010–February 2013). A further exhibition on Indian courtly arts, The Splendour of India's Royal Courts, which was drawn solely from the V&A's collection, was staged at the Palace Museum, Beijing (April–July 2013).

Partnership and Collaboration

In June 2010, the V&A,  British Library and British Museum signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Museum of India, acting on behalf of the Ministry of Culture of India. The MoU outlines a commitment to continuing exchanges of staff and the provision of professional advice. The V&A’s work supports the 2010 state to state India-UK Cultural Agreement.

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The first major outcome of the MoU with the Ministry of Culture was a collaborative digitisation programme of Indian Company paintings in collections in the UK and India. With the support of the Bonita Trust, the V&A digitised and catalogued nearly  3,000 works which are now available to view in Search the Collections. In 2014, the Bonita Trust agreed to fund a scholorship for students from India applying to the V&A/RCA History of Design MA Programme. The Trust also supported a programme of skills development and Knowledge sharing:

  • A Paper and Book Conservation workshop on, led by two V&A conservators, held at the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad in November 2012;
  • 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.
The V&A has an MoU with the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, and a long-standing relationship with the CSMVS in Mumbai. The Museum has been working closely with the Salar Jung Museum as well as other institutions such as the Calico Museum of Textiles, the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur, and the TAPI Collection of Textiles in Surat.

In 2011, The V&A recently signed an MoU with the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad to develop a course on Museum Design. The pilot course for Indian museum professionals was successfully delivered in Kolkota in 2011. A V&A conservation workshop at NID, funded by the Bonita Trust, focused on the Development, in collaboration with the exhibition venues, in September 2011.

Learning and Audience Engagement

As part of a capacity building programme for Indian museums supported by the Bonita 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.

Under the terms of the V&A’s MoU with the Ministry of Culture, India and with the support of the Bonita Trust, the V&A ran a course in museum education for staff from Indian museums focusing on the visitor experience. The course was held in June and July 2012 at the V&A’s Sackler Centre for arts education.

The V&A hosts the Annual Benjamin Zucker Lecture on Mughal art, now in its 19th year, at which many distinguished international speakers have presented new research.

In addition to presenting individual papers at national and international conferences, several members of the V&A Asian Department lecture on the SOAS Diploma in Asian Art, which draws heavily on museum collections, including those of the V&A.

Travel with the V&A

The Development Department has longstanding links with Indian contacts. The first Travel with the V&A trips took place in February 2006 taking a group of supporters to Rajasthan, and 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 India collections.

Working with India in the UK

The V&A collaborates with several UK based South Asian cultural, 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.

The Museum is 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.

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 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 V&A also hosted a one month training programme in the UK for a graphic designer from CSMVS in 2009.

Publications

The V&A is Europe’s leading centre for publications on the art of India with an active and productive strand of scholarly, exhibition and general titles by V&A authors. The V&A has 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:

  • Anna Dallapiccola, South Indian Temple Hangings, (V&A/Mapin, forthcoming)
  • 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)

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