Collections and Galleries
The 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 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 important holdings 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, with key pieces of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist sculpture shown in the adjacent galleries (47 A and 47B). Paintings from the reserve collection can be viewed, by appointment, in the South and South-East Asia Study Room; viewing of textiles from the reserve collection is available at the Clothworkers’ Centre, Blythe Road, by appointment.
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. To mark the occasion the V&A will be presenting an exciting series of exhibitions, including:
Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1854-1860
(24 June – 11 October 2015)
The exhibition will feature 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
(3 October 2015 – 10 January 2016)
The highlight of the India Festival, this will be the most wide-ranging and visually exciting exhibition of South Asian textiles ever mounted. It will feature around 250 objects ranging from the 3rd century to the present day that illustrate the skills, variety and adaptability of Indian textile makers, including previously unseen treasures.
Bejewelled Treasures: the Al Thani Collection
(21 November 2015 – Jan 2016)
Drawn from a single private collection, this exhibition will explore the broad theme of jewelled objects made in, or inspired by, 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
- Story telling in India, a display on the Library Landing
- A light installation inspired by Diwali as the seasonal display in the Grand Entrance
A display of Warli Paintings at the V&A Museum of Childhood, a tribal art form originating from the Thane region, north of Mumbai, which has had little exposure in the West. Developed in collaboration with A Fine Line.
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 number of the 19th-century instruments will also be installed within the Nehru Gallery, complimented by live performances in the Museum.
Past exhibitions at the V&A 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 museums in the U.K. 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), where it attracted over 27,200 visitors.
- 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 Exhibitions Elsewhere
The rich V&A India collection has been of appeal to audiences across the globe.
- 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 will see events themed around Diwali and programmes will be 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. Short courses are also held with one on textiles and jewellery scheduled to coincide 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 will take place in November 2015. 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 also hosted a one month training programme in the UK for a graphic designer from CSMVS in 2009.
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.
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 will mark the culmination 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.
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:
- 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)