Volume 66 Number 4, June 2015
Baroda: A Cosmopolitan Provenance in Transition
|Specifications:||156 pages, 130 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241|
This anthology frames the story of Baroda’s visual culture from the early 18th century to present times along the themes of provenance and cosmopolitanism. Baroda’s sphere of art production from the princely through to the contemporary firmly establishes it as a recognizable provenance. Simultaneously, a wide inclusion of local, regional and foreign ideas lends the provenance a cosmopolitan character: early artists, craftsmen and photographers engage with Sayajirao Gaekwad III; the royal patron in turn represents them at international exhibitions; itinerant builders and European architects contribute to a fast-modernizing state; artists and teachers set new directions for a Faculty of Fine Arts in post-Independence Baroda; patrons, gallerists, scholars and artists shape contemporary Baroda’s artistic culture.
The writers approach Baroda from different vantage points: as first-person accounts, as art critics, anthropologists and historians. Together they contribute new approaches to art history, and provide a non-Western case study of provenance and cosmopolitanism.
Priya Maholay-Jaradi, former Curator at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, is an independent art historian. She has initiated a post-doctoral project, Asian Collection Studies at the IIAS, Leiden (2013).
Foreword by Gulammohammed Sheikh
Baroda as Provenance
“Baroda” at Colonial Exhibitions (1878−1904)
Cosmopolitanism Articulated: The Evolution of Architecture from Wada to Palace
Christopher W. London
Adventures in Art Education: N.S. Bendre at the FFA
Inverted Hierarchies: The Work of Jyoti Bhatt
Archival Imaginaries: Art Practice and Pedagogy in the Early Years of the FFA
Chithra K.S., Rashmimala Devi, Sabih Ahmed
City as Metaphor: An Archaeology of Contemporary Artistic Production and Display
Art in Baroda: Provincial Location, Cosmopolitan Aspiration
After 2007: Towards the Art of Quietness
In Place of a Conclusion: Cosmopolitan and Secular vs Parochial and Communal
Shivaji K. Panikkar
The Foreword situates the place of the current publication in the context of previous scholarship on Baroda. Functioning as a brief yet effective literature review, it tells us how this book sets out on a different thematic and methodological course, often expanding on its precedent’s scholarly initiatives. The writer provides an interesting first-person account of the exchange and dialogues between the editor and authors to provide an overview of the chapters and their links which in turn clarifies the structure of the book.
The Introduction serves as a two-part “work in progress” statement: conceived at the outset, the first part spells out a range of empirical themes covered in the book and their theoretical direction. The active cross-referencing of Baroda’s diverse narratives, i.e., the artistic, architectural, artisanal, pedagogical, exhibitionary, archival and curatorial, reflect the city’s evolution as an experimental arts centre, or a “cosmopolitan provenance”. The latter phrase illustrates the twin theoretical themes which frame the book: cosmopolitanism and provenance research. Both themes in turn suggest an indigenous and contextual assessment of Baroda’s projects, thereby avoiding the pitfalls of a Eurocentric formulation. As a result of discussions between the volume editor and contributors over a period of two years, the second part of the Introduction problematizes the very idea of cosmopolitanism upon which the Baroda provenance is first premised. Authors dealing with the early modern, princely and early-independent Baroda underscore its cosmopolitan character, while contributors profiling the post-1980s Baroda systematically and inevitably undercut this case. The most recent cultural project, Vadfest, becomes the pivot around which the editor gathers dissonant voices of her contributors.
The article reflects on the essays in this volume to engage with the volume’s central provocation of describing Baroda’s modern and contemporary art as a matter of provenance, not artistic intentions or styles. Baroda’s art scene is located within a specific form of modernity that came to define the princely state and the city under Maharaja Sayajirao III. Partly using Manu Bhagawan, the essay distinguishes the “princely modern” provenance of Baroda in a mirroring of Enlightenment values, combined with pragmaticism, that shaped Baroda’s educational and other institutions and made it a model state within colonial India. Mimesis of colonial forms is explored in examples from the visual culture of Baroda, the educational mission of the Faculty of Fine Arts within the newly founded Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in 1949, and in a selection of artist and artworks other authors have discussed in detail.
By positioning Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda as a frequent lender to colonial exhibitions, this article demonstrates the emergence of a representative art-craft paradigm which eventually extends the status of a “provenance” to Baroda. Archival correspondence spotlights individual commissions which are included in loans’ inventories to expand the category of Baroda arts and crafts. Theoretically, this study is framed within the discourse of aesthetic cosmopolitanism. The otherwise minor status of aesthetic cosmopolitanism is enhanced as these projects move beyond mere cosmopolitan thought to cosmopolitan experiments which demonstrate ethical responsibility towards Baroda’s local communities and a trans-national space. Their inclusive character and global showcase make one question if the Baroda provenance and its cosmopolitanism are provincial.
Baroda, like all Indian cities, expanded greatly and changed significantly in the 19th and early 20th century British period. Its extensive transformation was realized through both admirable administrative structures and significant economic investments. Its fascination with new architectural forms can clearly be traced first to the development of the Wada. Architecturally, this thirst for novelty led to a taste in urban growth anchored by the broad exchange of ideas, and access to new materials, current styles, architectural elements, and designers unheard of. Nineteenth century changes saw extraordinary architectural output, good town planning, education, transportation, legal, health and other noteworthy reforms. Extensive building projects for both the rulers and those governed resulted. The Gaekwad’s prescient and progressive policies invested extensively in his realm’s future while he modified his own domestic quarters similarly. The changes supported architects, required much building activity and irrevocably established the progressive city firmly rooted there today.
Something of the spirit of Independence was in the air when the Faculty of Fine Arts was started at Baroda in 1949–50 by the newly established Maharaja Sayajirao University. The FFA began with a clean slate and was completely free from any kind of conservative art school atmosphere. Two Bombay personalities N.S. Bendre and V.R. Amberkar were closely associated with Baroda from the outset. Although discussions must have gone on at the frequent staff meetings or Board of Studies meetings among the artist-teachers and external experts, there has been no recorded blueprint of objectives or methods of teaching. Therefore, there is no definite document of art education ascribable to Baroda. Hence much depended on day to day classroom teaching. The present author was one of the earliest students of Bendre at Baroda (from 1951) and remembers lessons, demonstrations and his own work carried out in the studios. Through this adventure in Art Education, the author describes how Bendre nurtured the creative urges of scores of young artists from Gujarat and other parts of India during the 1950s and early 1960s.
Originally trained as an oil painter, Jyoti Bhatt (b. 1934) abandoned the premier medium of the mid-20th century for the less valued practices of printmaking and photography. His strongly modernist sensibilities – most importantly his affinities for pattern and flatness –informed his printmaking and photography. Further, Bhatt saw culture as a set of signifying practices, a position that resonates with the international “linguistic turn” through which structural anthropology was popularized. These aesthetic preoccupations shaped Bhatt’s collection of one of the most important archives of photographs of visual cultural forms in India. But Bhatt’s prints and photographs are also indicative of a larger approach to modernism in Baroda, one that sees form in sociological and historical terms and expects that modernism could and should be integrated with and continually invigorated by Indian visual culture.
This essay explores notions of the Archive in the context of art education in the decades immediately following Independence. With new art institutions that emerged in the wake of a new nation, art practices were being aligned in particular ways to establish their distinct material domains, historical lineages, and proposed futures. In this essay, the authors draw upon the compulsions around archive-building that was central to the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, and how that played a significant role in not just recovering the past, but in forging new relationships between modernity and tradition, history and contemporaneity.
Rather than merely locating and describing the different thematics emerging from the chapters, this essay also tries to identify emerging ideas and concerns in provenance research for future engagement. In the above spirit, the chapter engages with understanding the category of the political in relation to the emergent creative expressions in the history of Faculty of Fine Arts. Relating to the art developments since the late 1980s, the concluding section engages with the dual threads: of the art world and of the city/state/nation as two sites, and how these often confrontational and conflictual situations in the recent past, with the rise of majoritarian politics, have repudiated the cosmopolitan and secular values that the nation-state enshrines.
This essay is an attempt at identifying certain key characteristics which have played a crucial role in the structuration of Baroda as a site of contemporary artistic production. It briefly engages with the larger questions of political and economic (trans)-formations in order to provide a genealogical account of the spatial, formal, artistic and exhibitionary configurations of this site. It argues that one of the foundational characteristics of Baroda as a site is that of the externalization of the most intimate and the proximal, which in fact is a by-product of the city’s identification of itself primarily as a site of artistic production.The essay postulates that this self-fashioning of itself (merely) as a centre of artistic production has played a crucial role in Baroda’s failure to overcome dominant exhibitionary orders, pedagogic structures, and its structural inability to cultivate an artists’ communitas as such.
This essay considers art and culture in contemporary Baroda in terms of the juxtaposition between provincial location and cosmopolitan aspiration. Given its historical position and connections with other parts of India and elsewhere, Baroda has been a fertile crossroads. The Faculty of Fine Arts of M.S. University has been a locus of this fertility, though recent developments have cast a pall on its achievements over the preceding decades. Especially since the early 1980s, artists in and from Baroda have explored tensions between the indigenous and the international in a postcolonial context informed by art histories from different parts of India and the world. Situating these dialectics in Indian as well as European notions of cosmopolitan belonging, the essay argues that especially in the current political climate dominated by Hindu fundamentalism, the cosmopolitan imagination offers a vital mode of resistance.
May 9, 2007 is often thought of as a watershed in the self-imagination of the artist community in Baroda. The day marks the entry of a minor BJP functionary into the Faculty of Fine Arts protesting the alleged obscenity of a student's artwork. This leads to the arrest of the student, the suspension of the in-charge Dean and an extended strike by students and teachers. This paper traces the aftermath of the events of 2007. What it does not attempt is an overarching survey of artworks produced in Baroda since 2007. Instead it tracks the idea of a "viewing public" in order to read its implications for art practice. The paper consists of two sections: the first looks at the category of the viewing public as it gets modulated through the 2007 protests; and the second discusses some consequences of the 2007 event.