Talking Culture | Art Accessibility: Ideal or Reality?

The conclave will focus on various aspects of art accessibility in contemporary times. The first panel will address new ways of engaging with art, exploring the shift towards performance, sound and interactive art experiences. The second session explores art education and different approaches taken expanding art awareness and understanding. The day closes with a panel discussion on the role of private and corporate art collections in spreading art awareness and accessibility, filling gaps in public policy in engendering art awareness and education.

Panel 1: New Ways of Seeing Art
2.30 pm – 3.15 pm

NS Harsha
S. Harsha (b) 1969, Mysore, India
He completed his BFA in painting from CAVA, Mysore, in 1992, and his MFA, also in painting, from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University, Baroda, 1995.

N.S. Harsha’s paintings offer the artist’s witty and poetic, political and social responses to a variety of issues relating to global economics, the marketplace, and cultural heritage. The figurative and narrative paintings are woven out of the artist’s personal travel experiences, photographs and images culled from the media. Like a chronicler, often drawing from popular stories and local perceptions of international news events, Harsha depicts on his canvasses small town/city Indian life in our increasingly globalized times. His intricately detailed canvasses juxtapose seemingly disassociated images of scenes of small town and village India with those of more recognizably international ones. Harsha’s multi-layered narratives strongly suggest that the global is always already located within the local imagination.

Harsha creates in each of his acrylic on canvas paintings intimate spaces that bring to mind the basic format of early cinema or theatre halls usually found in small towns and villages. The narratives in Harsha’s satirical canvasses unfold against painted backdrops as his figures – the Queen of England, school children, the quintessential Indian farmer figure, Hindu mythological characters, or sages and clowns – juxtaposed against them act out complex scenes before us. Painting delicate banners into his paintings, Harsha cleverly plays with text and words. That Harsha’s imagery is influenced by popular street and poster art and draws much from children’s textbook illustrations, Bazaar Art, and the forms found in handcrafted folk toys, is evident in the form and treatment of his flattened figures, skewed perspectives, and fine lines.

Harsha has worked site specifically, collaboratively and collectively in various situations. In his hometown in Mysore, having worked with the local children from a school on art projects. As part of one of the artists at the Asia Pacific Triennale in Queensland worked collaboratively with local children from Brisbane within the gallery. In a Hindu Temple during the Singapore Biennale, he painted on the terrace of a Hindu Temple, reflecting the colors of the temple, depicting the temple workers in various positions of sleep. Amongst the recent exhibitions, Harsha had a mid-career retrospective at Mori Art Museum in 2017.

Lives and works in Mysore, India.

Peter Nagy
Peter Nagy (born 1959) is a graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York with a BFA in Communication Design. He was co-founder (along with Alan Belcher) of Gallery Nature Morte in New York’s East Village in 1982, where it continued until 1988. Active as an artist in the 80s, he has been based in New Delhi since 1992, where he resurrected Nature Morte there in 1997, championing young Indian artists and experimental art forms. Since then, Nature Morte has become one of India’s most prominent commercial galleries, representing many of the most important Indian artists who have come into prominence since the 1990s.

Sunil Kant Munjal
Mr. Sunil Kant Munjal is one of the founder promoters of the Hero Group, India’s premier automotive manufacturing group that has evolved from being the world’s largest bicycle-maker to the largest two-wheeler maker. He is the Chairman of Hero Enterprise, with interests in insurance distribution, steel-making, real estate, and corporate training. He has made strategic investments in several areas ranging from e-commerce to hospitality. He also supports start-ups on digital learning, community transportation, healthcare, women empowerment, and education.

He chairs the board that runs the Doon School and sits on the boards of the IIM Ahmedabad (IIMA), ISB, and SRCC. He has co-founded BML Munjal University (BMU) and is President of the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana. He has also served as president of the CII and AIMA; been a member of Prime Minister’s Council on Trade & Industry and was on government taskforces that prepared the ground for India’s banking and insurance reforms.

Mr. Munjal has set up the Serendipity Arts Foundation which aims to revive patronage in the arts; he is also President of the Ludhiana Sanskritik Samagam which supports performing arts across North India.

Zehra Jumabhoy
Zehra Jumabhoy is a UK-based writer, speaker, and art historian. 

She was the Steven and Elena Heinz Scholar at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where she completed her doctorate and is an Associate Lecturer, specializing in modern and contemporary South Asian art. She co-organizes Contemporaneity in South Asian Art, a public seminar series at the Courtauld’s Research Forum. She has been editor of the Visual Art section for Time Out Mumbai and an editor at the journal ART India. Her book, The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today was published by Random House, London, in 2010. She is the Guest Curator of The Progressive Revolution: Modern art for a New India (14 September  2018-20 January 2019) at the Asia Society museum, New York, which was inspired by her Ph.D. at the Courtauld on the intersection of Indian art and nationalism.

Nishad Avari (moderator)
Nishad Avari joined the South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art Department at Christie’s in 2013, with more than eight years of auction experience in New York and Mumbai. In addition to his previous role as Associate Vice President and Specialist in Modern and Contemporary Indian Art at Saffronart, Nishad also served as Editor, handling cataloging, research, and content for the auction house.

Prior to joining the auction world, Nishad worked with the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, during the seminal traveling exhibition, Picasso: Metamorphoses 1900–1972. Since graduating from Macalester College, Minnesota, with a dual degree in Political Science and International Studies, Nishad has contributed articles and essays to exhibition catalogues, scholarly journals, and news publications. In 2017, Nishad relocated to New York as Specialist, Head of Sale for South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art.

Panel 2: Art and Education
3.30 pm – 4.15 pm

Arundhati Ghosh
After a decade in the corporate sector, Arundhati joined India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) as its first fundraiser in 2000 and assumed office as the Executive Director in 2013. She has received recognition from several quarters for her work in the non-profit and arts and culture sector. In 2010 she received the Global Fundraiser Award from Resource Alliance International, the same year IFA won the ‘India NGO of the Year’ award in the medium category. She is a recipient of the fellowship under Chevening Clore Leadership Awards, in the UK in 2015-2016, and the Chevening Gurukul Scholarship for Leadership and Excellence at the London School of Economics, London in 2005. She is a fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar. She sits on Boards and Advisory Panels of the Beyond Sight Foundation, the Seagull Foundation for the Arts, and The Museum of Arts and Photography, Bangalore. She often speaks and writes on arts and philanthropy for leading Indian and international non-profit and cultural networks. Arundhati has an Economics degree from the Presidency College, Kolkata and a post-graduation in management from the Mudra Institute of Communication Ahmedabad. She also has a degree in classical dance and is a published poet in Bangla.

Rohit Goel (Moderator)
Rohit Goel is Academic Director of Jnanapravaha. He received a BA from Harvard College (2002) and, as Harvard’s Paul Williams Fellow to Emmanuel College, an MPhil from the University of Cambridge (2003). He pursued his Ph.D. studies at the University of Chicago, where he focused on histories of capitalism in the Levant, employing Marxian and psychoanalytic methods of inquiry. He has recently published an edited collection of essays, Lacan contra Foucault: Subjectivity, Sex, and Politics (Bloomsbury 2018), and is completing a manuscript on the emergence of capitalism, narcissism, and imperialism in Europe and the Americas over the long twentieth century.

Parmesh Shahani
Parmesh Shahani is the head of the award-winning Godrej India Culture Lab (, and the author of the book Gay Bombay: Globalization, Love and (Be)Longing in Contemporary India (Sage Publications, 2008). He is a TED Senior Fellow, a Yale World Fellow, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

Roobina Karode
Roobina Karode is the Director & Chief Curator at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India. She has post-graduate specializations in Art History and in Education. As an art educator, writer and curator, Karode has contributed to the field for over twenty-five years. From 1990 to 2006, she was teaching Art History, both Modern Art, Indian and Western, at various institutions mainly the School of Arts & Aesthetics in JNU, the National Museum Institute, College of Art and at the Jamia Millia University, She was awarded the Fulbright Fellowship in 2000 and the Ford Teaching Fellowship in 2005-7.

Karode has focused on the art of under-represented Indian artists with extraordinary vision and highly individual practices, whose contribution has been crucial within the discourse of modern and contemporary Indian art. She has also co-curated travelling exhibits on seventeen contemporary women artists of India at the Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University, USA, titled Tiger by the Tail, Women Artists of India Transforming Culture, in 2008 and was also the co-curator from India to the First Asian Art Triennale in Fukuoka, Japan in 1998-99.

Over the years, Karode has curated numerous exhibitions both within India and abroad including Nasreen Mohamedi’s retrospective at KNMA, at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and then at the Met Breuer in New York. Is it what you think? Ruminations on Time, Memory and Site, 2014 at KNMA with 17 contemporary artists, Nalini Malaini’s Retrospective You can’t put acid in a paperbag 2014 in 3 chapters, Constructs-Constructions, Pond near the Field ( Five artists from Kerala) , Himmat Shah’s retrospective at KNMA and then at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur, Jeram Patel : The Dark Loam- between memory and membrane, and Stretched Terrains – a string of seven exhibitions re-examining the evolution of modern in the Indian context, presenting different ingenious pursuits, proposals and vocabularies, evident in architecture, the visual arts, films, photographs and writings.

In 2016, Karode was the recipient of the India Today, Best Curator award for the year.

As the director and chief curator of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art since its inception, her broad vision for the Museum is focused on bridging the disconnect between art and the larger public through curated exhibitions, conversations and diverse educational and public programs. Steering a rigorous program at KNMA, she is focused on collaborations and partnering with other significant institutions to consolidate the global presence and relevance of contemporary Indian and South East Asian art.

Panel 3: Corporate and Institutional Collections in India
4.30 pm – 5.15 pm

Abhishek Poddar
Abhishek Poddar is a prominent collector and patron of the arts in India. He has been collecting art since high school and has created a significant collection of South Asian art, craft and antiquities, including modern and contemporary art and photography.
In 2018, he donated a majority of the family collection to the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), in Bengaluru, where he is a trustee. This year he was named as one of Asia’s 2018 Heroes of Philanthropy by Forbes Magazine.
Besides serving on various boards and committees in India, Poddar also serves on the advisory committees of the India-Europe Foundation for New Dialogues, headquartered in Rome and on the Lincoln Center Global Advisory Council.

Kamini Sawhney
Kamini Sawhney is the Curator of the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation that has one of the best private collections of Modern Indian Art put together over four decades by its founder Jehangir Nicholson. The collection is now on long-term loan to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya(formerly the Prince of Wales Museum) and the Jehangir Nicholson gallery functions as the modern art wing of the Museum.

The gallery opened in 2011 and in her role as curator Kamini has helped bring to the public realm a series of exhibitions structured around the collection. Some of these exhibitions have been curated by her and others have been articulated by guest curators. Apart from exhibitions, she has been instrumental in organizing events, workshops, and seminars conceived around these shows.

In addition to her role as curator, Kamini was the Chief Project Coordinator for the landmark exhibition – India and The World presented in 2017-18 by the CSMVS in collaboration with the British Museum and the National Museum, New Delhi. She was also the project manager for a special exhibition in collaboration with Tate Modern on the artist Howard Hodgkin in 2015.

Kamini was selected for the Brooks fellowship at Tate Modern, London in 2014 in collaboration with the Delfina Foundation.

In her earlier role as journalist and television anchor, Kamini was the Bureau Chief of NDTV, Mumbai where she reported on her whole range of events both political and cultural. She was also posted as a special correspondent to Thailand and then Indonesia. Prior to this, her first television stint was with the government’s broadcasting wing, Doordarshan News. She has reported from all over India as well as internationally, covering news from Brazil, Australia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Indonesia.

While with Doordarshan Kamini has also lent her skills to a United Nations project on Artisan Development where she was sent on deputation to the project’s media team for a year.

Paul Abraham
As a banker with over three decades of experience, Paul Abraham knows a thing or two about good investments. He believes the most meaningful way to preserve the things that bring him joy—art, culture, wildlife—is to pass on the flame to a new generation of curious young minds. It’s in this spirit that he founded Sarmaya in 2015. A digital museum that houses Paul’s private collection of art, artefacts and living traditions from the Indian subcontinent, Sarmaya has sought to transcend the conventional boundaries of a museum and make art accessible to all through an engaging online presence and a vibrant calendar of talks, exhibitions, workshops, and curated travel experiences. Through Sarmaya and institutions like the Hinduja Foundation and Sanctuary Asia, where he serves as an advisor and board member, Paul has fostered a community of young historians, artists, and conservationists through fellowships, funding and sustained patronage.

Deepthi Sasidharan (Moderator)
Deepthi Sasidharan is an art historian, curator, and founder Director at Eka Archiving, a cultural advisory. She works on heritage and museum projects across India with the Government, private and corporate clients. Under her, Eka has executed projects that have been path-breaking in India, including several museums, seminal exhibitions and the creation of archives like those for Kalakshetra in Chennai, City Palace in Udaipur and Tata Trusts in Mumbai.

She is currently the lead consultant for Moda Goa Museum, India’s first costume museum in Goa and the Bastion Bungalow Project, Fort Kochi, Government of Kerala as well as a heritage project for the Mumbai Police.

A Fulbright and Fundacao Oriente scholar, she has lectured and published extensively on 19th-century photography and has worked on photography collections at IGNCA and IGMT, New Delhi, and Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad, and several private collections. Deepthi lives in Mumbai and is the co-author of Indira A Life of Courage (2017) and Treasures of the Deccan (2018)