Kavita Singh, the globally renowned, distinguished art historian and academic has died aged 59. She was admired and respected for her pathbreaking research and work in Indian art & museum studies; her zeal for continuous learning and generosity in sharing knowledge. In 2018 she was conferred the Infosys Prize for Humanities, in recognition of her significant body of work.
What drew Kavita Singh to Art History?
“Singh has published several essays on secularism and religiosity, fraught national identities, and the memorialization of difficult histories as they relate to museums in South Asia and beyond. She has also published on aspects of Mughal and Rajput painting.“
Lectures & Talks by Prof. Kavita Singh
Among Prof. Kavita Singh’s legacies are her riveting talks & lectures that enriched any listener – whether a newbie to the field of art, or a seasoned art historian! Her captivating presence, on stage and screen will be missed.
We thus honour her, by highlighting some of her lectures about art, and museums over the decade. You can also find the playlist on YouTube.
Maharaja Tourism and Palace Museums in India (2013)
Situating palace-turned-museums in the history and trajectory of India’s imagery of ‘Maharaja Tourism’
Looking East, Looking West: Mughal Painting between Persia and Europe (2015)
Kavita Singh suggests that Mughal painting did not follow a single arc of stylistic evolution. Instead, it underwent repeated cycles of adoption, rejection, and revival of Persian and European styles.
Congress of Kings: Thoughts on a painting of Muhammad Shah Rangila (2019)
Prof. Singh uncovered and explored possible meanings and interpretations of the masterpiece ‘Congress of Kings’ – a famous painting of Muhammad Shah Rangila that shows him in a sexual congress with an as yet unidentified woman. In her talk, Prof. Kavita Singh referenced the rich histories of Mughal portraiture; music and poetry of Muhammad Shah’s time; the late-Mughal emperor’s own biography; write poetry and Sanskrit and Persian sexological literature; and theories of kingship, karma and kama.
Not the same Museum, not the same Future (2020)
“How do I see the future of the museum as a space of democracy from my vantage point in India, where we hardly have any well-functioning museums, and where democracy itself seems to be shrinking? In my remarks, I want to share some thoughts about the limits and possibilities of building collections and collecting buildings today; about museums as places for redistributive but not retributive justice; and as crowd-sourced self-education as a way of escaping statist cultural propaganda.”
Portrayal of Women in Mughal Paintings
with Rana Safvi
A New Museum for a New Nation 2022
This illustrated talk discusses the founding and the early history of the National Museum of India, at a time when the future of the institution is looking increasingly uncertain.
Endless Prospects, New Perspectives: View from a Terrace in 18th century Awadh
The Slade Lecture in Fine Art 2023, University of Cambridge
“In this special lecture, I bring the background into the foreground as I turn to a series of 18th century paintings that are marked by a keen and even vertiginous interest in perspective. These paintings are associated with the workshop of an artist named Faizullah, and were made in Lucknow, capital of a “Mughal-successor state” one of several former Mughal provinces whose governors had taken advantage of weak Mughal emperors to seize autonomy… these paintings, I suggest, are messages about order and disorder, sovereignty and space.”
Book of Gold: the Golden Ramcharitmanas of Kashi, at court, in the archive and in the market
A Conference to Celebrate Frederick M. Asher’s contributions to Art and Scholarship by the American Institute of Indian Studies Campus, Gurugram & University of Chicago Center, New Delhi
An Embarrassment of Riches: Indian Architectural Exhibits at the V&A (April 2023)
This lecture tracks four significant architectural-scaled objects from India that were or are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum but can no longer be seen there.
The Karwaan Keynote 2023 by Prof. Kavita Singh (July 2023) was her last.
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