Accepted Paper:

The Role of Critique in the Critique of Roles in the Indian Contemporary Art World  


Karin Zitzewitz (Michigan State University)

Paper short abstract:

Artist-driven curatorial and archival projects in India have cleverly subverted the division of labor in the art world. While the resulting works, exhibitions, and institutions have been evaluated as art, this paper considers their critique of the art world at a time of market upheaval.

Paper long abstract:

The concept of the art world decentralizes artistic production, so that what was often romanticized as a solitary creative process is recognized as a collaborative activity. The anthropology of the art world often involves the analysis of the connections between actors—artists, curators, dealers, critics, historians, collectors, etc.—as they function in institutions, articulating how together they make possible the production, circulation and evaluation of art. Focusing on the case of India, this paper looks at what happens when the conventional divisions between these roles are violated. It describes a series of artist-driven curatorial and archival projects in which artists have encroached upon the roles of curator, administrator, and historian. The results, whether works of art, curatorial projects, or even new institutions, have been considered by the art world in terms of their artistic value. This paper, by contrast, evaluates their critique of the art world and its functioning, particularly within a period of broad shifts in art institutions and their priorities that has followed the rapid market fluctuations brought on by the 2007 Great Recession. Cases under consideration include Judy Blum Reddy's historical rebuke of the canonization of the "Modern Masters," Raqs Media Collective's discursive and political alternative to the 2014 India Art Fair, and, most spectacularly, the Kochi Biennale's demonstration of the continuing relevance of state arts funding in the neo-liberal present.

Panel P079
For an anthropology of the art world: Exploring institutions, actors and art works between circulation and territorialisation processes