Positioning itself in the early decades of the 20th century in Bengal, the lecture will track a critical transition in the vocation of design in colonial India from the realm of handicrafts and the artisanal arts to a new social space of middle class training and practice. It will reflect on the way the skills of designing comes to occupy a new median space between those of fine arts and crafts within the structures of art pedagogy, and the way a new figure of the professional designer emerges in these years in the early guise of the commercial artist. With a focus on the new Art in Industry movement in Calcutta of the 1940s, that served as the countrys pioneering corporate forum for the promotion of commercial design, the lecture will look back at two main trends (i) the discursive shift from the 19th century category of the industrial/decorative arts that dominated the colonial Indian art administration to the new livelihoods of modern graphic and commercial art that are nurtured by the Government School of Art, Calcutta during the 1920s and 30s (ii) the negotiations between the traditional aesthetics of the ornamental and the new aesthetics of the modern that shapes the art of design and advertising in mid 20th century Bengal.
Speaker Bio Tapati Guha-Thakurta is Professor in History and was the Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) from 2012 to 2017. Her two main books are The Making of a New 'Indian' Art: Artists, Aesthetics and Nationalism in Bengal (Cambridge University Press, 1992) and Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India (Columbia University Press, and Permanent Black, 2004). She is also the author of several exhibition monographs among them, Visual Worlds of Modern Bengal: An introduction to the documentation archive of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (Seagull, Kolkata, 2002), The Aesthetics of the Popular Print: Lithographs and Oleographs from 19th and 20th Century India (Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata, 2006), The City in the Archive: Calcuttas Visual Histories (Calcutta: CSSSC, 2011). She has co-edited two anthologies of essays Theorising the Present: Essays for Partha Chatterjee (Delhi: OUP, 2011) and New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (Delhi: OUP, 2013). Her latest book is titled, In the Name of the Goddess: The Durga Pujas of Contemporary Kolkata (Delhi: Primus Books, 2015).
The South Asia Art Initiative, inaugurated in Spring 2018, is the culmination of a comprehensive art program, built over the past several years, that promoted conversation around the visual cultures of South Asia through talks, conferences, and exhibitions. The goal of the Initiative is to move onto the next level with local, national, and international collaborations that combine creative energies with insights drawn from scholarly research. To read more about the Initiative or to help support its various fundraising goals, please click HERE.