Now a single source for 10,000 years of Indian art history

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For decades, artists, historians, students and art enthusiasts have struggled to learn about the art of the subcontinent, access information scattered around the world, or find stories told from an Indian perspective. From now on, information will be available on an open-access online platform, whether it is articles on a reclining marble sheep from the mature Harappan period (2600-1900 BCE), sculpture in stoneware of a Celestial Dancer (mid-11th century), a Kangra miniature painting depicting a scene from the Gita Govinda (1820-25) or Untitled (Portrait of a Man Holding a Bird) by studio photographer Suresh Punjabi (late 1980s).

The Encyclopedia of Art from the Indian Subcontinent, created by MAP Academy, a project of the Bengaluru Museum of Art and Photography, and launched on April 21, seeks not only to present the evolution of art in the region, but also to highlight how ways of living and thinking have changed over time.

Hailed as a one-of-a-kind compilation, this site will offer information on mediums and themes such as textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, indigenous traditions and popular culture, whether tracing how rhythmic movement has been expressed in sculptures through the ages, or depictions of nature by artists from various communities, whether Bhil or Warli.

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In addition to the Encyclopedia, which currently has over 2,000 entries, spanning 10,000 years, the platform aims to make South Asian art and art history more accessible through online courses, articles and blogs. The content was created and is maintained by over 25 researchers, editors and academic advisors. “All of this, including the Encyclopedia, will be on the same site and will be interconnected. For example, if a course mentions a particular artist, the name will be linked to the entry in the Encyclopedia. We want it to be a foundational knowledge bank that continues to grow,” says Nathaniel Gaskell, Founder and Director of MAP Academy.

Bhouri Bai. vs. 1980, Color poster on paper, Untitled. Courtesy of Hervé Perdriolle.


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The objective, broadly speaking, is twofold. First, to provide a new perspective on history and to overcome the limitations of existing research, which may be euro-centric or market-oriented. Second, make the existing scholarship available in simpler language.

She hopes to take a fresh look at regional histories. “We focus on non-hierarchical approaches to art forms, including geographic representation and diversity, gender inclusion and caste sensitivity; the knowledge we make accessible through the MAP Academy therefore has a clear social purpose,” says Gaskell.

Additionally, “a lot of existing research contains gaps and biases, which can be quite problematic. That said, although there are also many great scholarships, the majority of them are either not available in one place or are inaccessible to beginners due to their use of complex language,” he adds. -he. They hope to make information available in simpler language, providing detailed bibliographies for those wishing to delve into particular topics.

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Entries that attempt to challenge canonical accounts have been written primarily by scholars from the subcontinent. While working on articles, for example on modern and contemporary art, the team tried to ensure better representation of genre, region and community. “While working on textiles, for example, we realized that we didn’t have enough material from the regions around Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. So we embarked on a research journey just for that,” says Gaskell.

Shah Jahan on Horseback, Payag, verso: c.  1630;  recto: c.  1530–50, ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper.  Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Shah Jahan on Horseback, Payag, verso: c. 1630; recto: c. 1530–50, ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The content creation process had its share of challenges. Because much of the material was in libraries around the world, not in India, where most of the team is based. The inaccessibility of research, indeed, validated MAP’s vision for the Encyclopedia.

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It also proved difficult to find researchers who shared their vision. “In my experience, there are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to writing about the arts: either the style is too scholarly or too simplified. There is no middle ground. And that’s the space we want to occupy – reliable, factually correct, unbiased, without dumbing it down or over-complicating it,” Gaskell says. To ensure this, the Academy also has a committee of academic experts consisting of Mayank Mansingh Kaul, Manisha Ahmed, Rahul Mehrotra, Rosemary Crill, Shukla Sawant and Yael Rice.

He will not be able to present research in Indian languages ​​at this time. For now, he is looking for knowledge experts to help translate the Encyclopedia into other languages. “We realize that to really make ourselves accessible, we cannot limit ourselves to English. Even just having a Hindi translation, for example, is not enough. We try to have researchers who can understand content in regional languages. “This,” notes Gaskell, “is a long-term project.”

The Encyclopedia can be viewed at www.mapacademy.io and updates can be followed at instagram.com/map_academy.

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