Partha Mitter

Emeritus Professor, History of Art
University of Sussex


  • Mon, April 3 at 5 pm: Lecture 1. The Triumph of Modernism: Indian Artists and the Global Avant-garde, 1922-1947
    Moderator: Atreyee Gupta, Assistant Professor, Global Modern Art
    Richly illustrated talk on the advent of modernism in India, set off by the 1922 exhibition of Bauhaus artists in Calcutta, the first transcultural event in global modernism.  Discussion will centre on this period, dominated by the re-interpretation of artistic primitivism as a weapon of anti-colonial resistance, led by three iconic figures: Rabindranath Tagore; Amrita Sher-Gil; Jamini Roy. 
  • Wed, April 5 at 5 pm: RoundtableThe Virtual Cosmopolis 
    Partha Mitter in conversation with Atreyee Gupta (Department of History of Art), Anneka Lenssen (Department of History of Art), Aglaya Glebova (Department of History of Art), and Harsha Ram (Departments of Comparative Literature and Slavic Languages and Literatures)
  • Fri, April 7 at 5 pm: Lecture 2. Why do we need to reimagine Modernism? Global Modernism and its discontents
    Moderator: Al-An deSouza, Professor of Photography 
    Modernism is claimed to be an inclusive global concept today, as demonstrated by the endless merry-go-round of Biennales, Art Fairs and international auctions in which artists from Asia, Africa and Latin America are lionised. The heterogeneous character of contemporary global art practices has even given rise to anxiety about the end of art history as a grand Hegelian narrative.  As the talk will argue, rather than being universal, these values are in fact the embedded in western modernism and its special claims to universality.   The lecture will offer a critical reappraisal of art history that created the modernist canon and led to its domination of global modernism.
  • Sat, Apr 8 at 6 pm (By Invitation Only)
    SAAI Scholar-in-Residence Reception: The Long Arc of India’s Modernism
    A fireside conversation between Partha Mitter, Emeritus Professor, University of Sussex and Atreyee Gupta, Director, South Asia Art Initiative, UC Berkeley
    Venue: South Bay

Partha Mitter is a writer and historian of art and culture, specialising in the reception of Indian art in the West, as well as in modernity, art and identity in India, and more recently in global modernism. He studied history at London University and did his doctorate with E. H. Gombrich (1970). He began his career as Junior Research Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge (1968-69) and Research Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge (1970-74). In 1974 he joined Sussex as a Lecturer in Indian History, retiring in 2002 as Professor in Art History.

His publications include Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1977: Chicago University Press Paperback, 1992; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2013); Art and Nationalism in Colonial India 1850-1922: Occidental Orientations (Cambridge University Press, 1994); Indian Art, Oxford Art History Series (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002); The Triumph of Modernism: India’s Artists and the Avant-Garde – 1922-1947 (Reaktion Books, London, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007).

Mitter was Radhakrishnan Lecturer at All Souls College, Oxford in 1992 and Getty Visiting Professor at Bogazici University, Istanbul in 2011. He has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts; and CASVA, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. In 2000 he was invited by the Indian Government to set up the School of Art and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

In 1982 he curated and wrote an introduction to the catalogue of an exhibition on the history of Indian photography for the Photographers Gallery, London. At present he is Emeritus Professor in Art History, University of Sussex, Member of Wolfson College, Oxford and Honorary Fellow, Victoria & Albert Museum, London. In 2008 he received an Honorary D.Lit. degree from the Courtauld Institute, London University.

As the SAAI Scholar in Residence, Dr. Mitter will deliver two public talks and lead two workshops. 

FALL 2020

In Fall 2020, the South Asia Art Initiative at the University of California, Berkeley launched Crisis and Creativity: Virtual Artist in Residence at UC Berkeley. Artists’ residencies and their affiliative senses of travel and mobility with which we are by now all too familiar is all but nada in the time of a global pandemic. Yet, the word residency is inundated with the sensibilities of being in place, of domicile, and of dwelling. To recapture these senses, SAAI invited artists Mithu Sen (New Delhi) and Brendan Fernandes (Chicago) to experiment with new forms of making, translate embodied creative processes into a digital realm, and craft new modes of audience engagement across dispersed latitudes and time zones. Curated by UC Berkeley faculty Allan deSouza, Atreyee Gupta, Asma Kazmi, and Sugata Ray, this was the first project of this nature where two artists were live streamed for 72 hours on the SAAI Artist Residency website. 

October 25–27, 2020

Mithu Sen

Mithu Sen

Brendan Fernandes

Brendan Fernandes

Mithu Sen's SAAI Virtual Artist in Residency video (October 2020)

Bar-clay for sale! Berk-lay for sale! Bark- ले  for sale! PS: Berkeley for sale!

This 72-hour LIVE streaming performance subverting the virtual aesthetics and politics by counter-actively sabotaging & metaphorically selling (in varied time zones) the hostname ‘Berkeley’, branded institution, and co-sharing this privileged platform to different creative professionals and staging a disruption over a LIVE streaming performance.

Slicing into 72 ‘one-hour residency’ this project questioning the ‘myth’ of co-collaboration, the (un)mundane labour, and the limits of hospitality!

Brendan Fernandes's SAAI Virtual Artist in Residency video (2020)

Mithu Sen speaking in a zoom call







Brendan Fernandes speaking in a zoom call