you can now explore an open-source encyclopedia of 10,000 years of South Asian art | Smart News

This watercolor taken from a devotional poem shows the richness of South Asian art, a long history of art ignored by some in the Western world.
Public domain via the Philadelphia Museum of Art

South Asia has a long and vibrant artistic tradition. But art lovers looking for an easy-to-read reference to the region’s art have long been disappointed. Now the New York Times‘Ginanne Brownell reports, a team of researchers has launched an open source online encyclopedia covering more than 10,000 years of South Asian art – the first collection of information on Indian and South Asian art of its kind.

The MAP Academy’s Encyclopedia of Indian Art, supported by the Bangalore Museum of Art and Photography (MAP), was launched last week with over 2,000 peer-reviewed entries of works by ranging from paintings to sculptures, textiles and handicrafts.

Each easy-to-read entry is in article form with text and images, and focuses on artistic techniques, the significance of individual works, and the art movements to which they belong, Hyperallergicwrites Jasmine Liu.

The peer-reviewed articles were created by about 20 scholars and editors, notes CNN’s Oscar Holland, and the peer-reviewed project was overseen by scholars, editors and art history experts. Although the encyclopedia is only in English, the organizers hope to launch Hindi translations in the near future. Currently, writes Holland, the team aims to add around 1,000 additional entries per year, including artwork from Bangladesh and Pakistan in recognition of pre-modern frontier art movements.

Project founder and MAP Academy director Nathaniel Gaskell said South Asian art is sorely lacking in such a resource, telling CNN that the majority of relevant scholarship “is in ridiculously lingo. verbose”. He describes the encyclopedia as “a response to this kind of writing”. , which people find quite alienating.

A statue of Shiva with moving limbs

This statue of Shiva with moving limbs is kept in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Public domain via the Cleveland Museum of Art

MAP founder, Abhishek Poddar, businessman and philanthropist, tells India timeby Neelam Raj that India’s art and museum sector remains relatively underdeveloped and dependent on philanthropists like him for its resources – and that the museum intends to challenge the idea that museums are boring, elite spaces .

According to CNN, India’s Culture Ministry’s latest budget of 26.9 billion rupees ($351 million) was little more than the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s spending in 2020, and Gaskell recounts Hyperallergic educational institutions in the country, even art schools, are sorely lacking in art history courses.

The result is that South Asian art is underrepresented both globally and in India. “All children know [Michelangelo’s] Davidthe mona-lisa and Botticelli, but there are Indian masterpieces that even 1% of India doesn’t know about,” Poddar told CNN.

This is partly because, as Hyperallergic remarks, the concept of art history and art appraisal has Western connotations. And the long history of South Asian art is plagued by European colonization and subjugation – issues the encyclopedia is quick to avoid. In its article on bazaar paintings – works of art created for European visitors to India – the encyclopedia describes how Indian artists “began to adopt European styles and aesthetics” at the turn of the 20th century, leading to a hybrid style of painting now known as Corporate School.

A brightly colored painting of a large blue plant surrounded by human figures

Bhouri Bai. vs. 1980, Color poster on paper, Untitled.

Courtesy of Hervé Perdriolle.

Deepanjana Klein, Christie’s International Head of Contemporary Indian and Southeast Asian Art, says Time the encyclopedia could contribute to the growth of the art market in South Asia, whether the art diaryKabir Jhala reports have increased by more than 9% in 2019. Collectors want to have “a little more understanding of what [they’re] get involved with “when” you spend $500,000+,” Klein says.

This might have a downside, writes Hyperallergicnoting that art collectors and dealers “generally benefit from the potential for exploitation of art history”.

The same goes for Western museums, many of which hold vast collections of looted objects. Repatriation efforts have gained momentum in recent years – such as the return of a $50 million trove of Cambodian art and antiquities in February and the Rubin Museum’s agreement to return religious sculptures stolen from the Nepal – but many South Asian masterpieces remain in Western museums.

But the encyclopedia team says their focus is on the pure accessibility to artistic knowledge their compilation would provide. “Our goal is to make art histories more accessible, based on the idea that it can have a positive social impact by broadening perspectives on humanity, heritage and culture,” they state on the project website. Similar, easy-to-access resources have been available for decades through the lenses of the American and British art world – researchers say it’s high time South Asian traditions had the same.

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