Kunstsammlung NRW

Local modernism in a global context: Partha Mitter

Conversations with guests of the research project museum global

Partha Mitter is an author and a professor emeritus for art history (Sussex University) who specializes in the history of modern art and identity in India as well as the reception of Indian art in the West. In light of continuing processes of globalization, he is preoccupied with cultural transfer between East and West, and with its manifestations in modern and contemporary art.

A video interview with Partha Mitter for #32.

Beginning in the mid-18th century, India found itself under British rule. In the British art schools, the focus was on classical oil painting and naturalism, while traditional Indian art was marginalized. To an increasing degree in the early 20th century, local artists strove to fashion their own cultural identity, discarding an aesthetic that had been imposed upon them, turning toward local folk painting, for example, and rejecting the concept of the artist as genius in favor of collective creative activity. For Indian artists, Western avant-gardism – which understood itself as a break with classical European painting – too became a form of resistance in their struggle against colonial oppression.

In this interview (conducted in English), Partha Mitter interrogates the Western dominance of modernism, and regards artistic modernism from India and Asia not as "derivatives" of the Western avant-gardes, instead emphasizing the sociocultural significance of such works through their embeddedness in the respective historical context of colonialization.

This video interview was conducted in summer of 2016 on the occasion of a workshop with Partha Mitter that took place in Düsseldorf. The project museum global is a cooperation with the excellence cluster Asia and Europe in a Global Context (Heidelberg University), and will culminate in 2018 in the major exhibition Excentric Modernism, which will situate works owned by the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in an expanded framework. 

The research project museum global and the exhibition Excentric Modernism receive support from the German Federal Cultural Foundation (Kulturstiftung des Bundes).


Interview: Florence Thurmes
Filming and Editing: Josef Rapaj

A conversation with guests

part 2: Wendy Shaw