The Sri Lankan who took Indian art to the West

The name Coomaraswamy might seem familiar to those who have visited the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), with one of the venues at the museum named after him.

But not many know of the great contributions by the Sri Lankan-born Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy towards Indian culture and history. Coomaraswamy was a known Indologist who studied and introduced Indian art to the West.

Ananda Coomaraswamy

The talk, The Camera Work of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy and the Stieglitz Circle, will help you know more. During his stay in New York, Coomaraswamy got to know the revolutionary photographer Alfred Stieglitz who strived to find institutional recognition for photography.

In the 1920s, art museums in the United States would collect and exhibit photographs by several modern photographers, including Stieglitz.

Tomorrow’s talk, to be conducted by Dr Nachiket Chanchani, Assistant Professor of South Asian Art and Visual Culture, Departments of the History of Art and Asian Languages and Cultures at University of Michigan, will scrutinise the circumstances under which the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston accepted prints from Stieglitz and other photographers.

It is said that this move was influenced by curator Coomaraswamy’s interest in photography’s creative and political possibilities as well as in Stieglitz’s life and work. The talk will try to discuss the effect of the overlapping lives and interests of Coomaraswamy and Stieglitz and the effect it had on collecting Modernist photography and the institutionalisation of South Asian art history as a scholarly discipline.

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