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Talks and Lectures

Dr. Siddhartha Shah on The Legacy of Independence on Modern Indian Art

On-site at the museum


Dr. Siddhartha Shah reflects on the rise of modernity in South Asia, which revolutionized the visual arts of a newly independent subcontinent.   

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Jointly presented by the Society for Art & Cultural Heritage of India and the Asian Art Museum, Dr. Siddhartha Shah, Curator of South Asian Art, Peabody Essex Museum reflects on the rise of modernity in South Asia, which revolutionized the visual arts of a newly independent subcontinent.   

The Partition of British India in August 1947 divided the subcontinent into the nations of India and Pakistan and incited the largest mass migration in human history. Independence from colonial rule was thus cause for both celebration and despair—a paradox that artists of the period represented in varied and arresting ways. Post-independence art reveals a unique confluence of mixed emotions and histories, where ancient tales and modern abstraction convey both sorrow and hope, separation and unity. In honor of the 75th anniversary of independence, this presentation entitled “Crossing the Line and Closing the Circle: The Legacy of Independence on Modern Indian Art” examines the dreams and visions of artists working after 1947, through works that convey tremendous cultural pride as well as visions of a hopeful though undetermined future.  


Siddhartha V. Shah is the Director of Education and Civic Engagement and Curator of South Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, which is home to one of the leading collections of modern Indian art outside the subcontinent. Dr. Shah earned his BA in art history from Johns Hopkins University, an MA in Hindu philosophy and Jungian psychoanalysis from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and a PhD in art history from Columbia University. His academic and curatorial projects have been featured in publications ranging from The Times of India and India Today, to The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and Psychology Today. 

Image: Untitled, 1973, by Tyeb Mehta (Indian, 1925 – 2009). Acrylic on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001, E301099. Photograph courtesy of the Estate of Tyeb Mehta and Peabody Essex Museum.

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