Art Histories Seminar

Regina Höfer: Practices of Art Collecting and Circulation in Colonial India

Stele of Simhanada Lokeshvara, 11./12. cent., grey phyllite, Bihar, Eastern India, I 576 © National Museums in Berlin, Asian Art Museum.

The lecture investigates how Indian art has been collected and distributed in 19th-century colonial India. Colonial institutions like the Schools of Art, museums and World Fairs produced art for a Western audience. Similar to 19th-century achievements like photography documenting "The People of India" with a colonial ethnographic approach, for example painted miniature clay models were created to visualise the castes, tribes, professions and religious sects of the Rāj. Also, with regard to antiquities, classification systems, art historical periods and styles were created like in the case of Gandhāra sculpture. The above-mentioned institutions established a complex system of artistic education, art training, patronage and art distribution. Both official organs as well as private companies contributed to that. But also individuals like amateur scholar L. A. Waddell and his diverse collecting activities ranging from his own excavations to war loot substantially supported imperial archive building. They took an important role in fashioning Indian as well as Western museum collections and ultimately the imagination of what is considered Indian art.


Regina Höfer (CAHIM Fellow 2018/19) is an art historian and curator specialising in Tibetan and South Asian art. She is lecturer and an associated academic at the Central Asian Seminar, Institute for Asian and African Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin and an associated academic at the Department of Asian and Islamic Art History, University of Bonn. Beforehand, she worked as assistant professor at the Institute of Art History, University of Vienna. She was assistant curator at the Asian Art Museum, Berlin, and curated several exhibitions. Her PhD-thesis 'A Habsburg Trophy Hunt: The South Asian Collection of Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este between Colonial World View, Art and Souvenir' is the first investigation of a colonial South Asian collection and reflects her research interest in colonial South Asian art as well as in collecting practices.

03. Dezember 2018, 17:00 Uhr

Forum Transregionale Studien

Wallotstr. 14
14193 Berlin


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