Art & Visual Cultures of South Asia

SUPPORT SOUTH ASIA ART @ BERKELEY                        FACULTY  |  EVENTS  |  SAAI AWARDS |  NEWSLETTER |    |    |   

CRISIS & CREATIVITYVirtual Artist in Residence with artists MITHU SEN (New Delhi) and BRENDAN FERNANDES (Chicago)

Click here to view livestream. Note: Livestream will begin at 12am PST on Oct. 25, 2020

Over the past several years, the Insitute for South Asia Studies at UC Berkeley has been focused on building a comprehensive program focused on the art and visual culture of South Asia that promotes the conversation, production of knowledge, and sharing of information about the material, visual, and sensory “stuff” of South Asia in the UC Berkeley campus as well as in the Bay Area, and beyond.

To this end, we have worked closely with the university’s Department of History of Art which offers excellent undergraduate and graduate training in the history of the visual arts in both Western and Asian culture, with a multi-disciplinary approach. Key faculty members with a focus on South Asian art have been integral to building this program. For example, Professor Joanna Williams was the Department’s preeminent professor of South and Southeast Asian art for the last 43 years. Professor Williams supervised and trained a generation of scholars whose work has focused on a range of topics, from Khmer temples to modernism in Indian art, from stone portrait sculptures of the Pallavas and the Cholas to Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts. During her tenure, Professor Williams was not only conversant with the visual cultures of North and South India (and even Sri Lanka), but she was one of the few Asian art historians who was able to link the two vast regions of South and Southeast Asia in her work. Many of her students and former students will be actively involved in program development for this Initiative.

Two professors who focus exclusively on South Asian visual culture will be part of the committee of faculty leading this program. Sugata Ray who joined the Department in 2012, teaches courses on South Asian art, architecture, cinema, and visual culture. His current research interests focus on visual practices and built spaces in early modern and modern South Asia. Professor Ray is also interested in rethinking the debates surrounding the idea of a Global Art History through the frame of postcolonial studies. Atreyee Gupta, who joined in 2017, focuses on modern and contemporary art and its diaspora, which offers her the ability to address broader questions of globalization, hybridity, and cosmopolitanisms. In particular, she is interested in modernism and the politics of inhabitation, corporeality and sensoriality in 20th-century art practices, the intersections between modern art and processes of modernization in post-colonial contexts, institutional histories of modernisms, and aesthetics as a form of post-war global cultural capital.

Complementing the Department of Art History, the Department of Art Practice provides professional art training within the context of a research university. The Department offers a strong grounding in traditional artistic skills to complement a full curriculum of courses in new genres, electronic media, and critical practices. The two faculty members from Art Practice leading this program are Allan deSouza, a photographer and multi-media artist, whose works restage dominant histories through counter-strategies of fiction, erasure, and (mis)translation. And Pakistan-born Asma Kazmi, a performance artist and a sculptor who approaches her practice from a post installation/object centric position, which allows her to create transdisciplinary, relational works where people, media and objects come together.

Finally, we also work closely with the Berkeley Art Museum, the visual arts center of the University of California, Berkeley. As well as the Arts Research Center (ARC) at UC Berkeley, an interdisciplinary space that brings people together--from across the university and beyond the university, from across the arts and beyond the arts--for unexpected conversations, collaborations, and community-building. ARC fosters individual and collaborative research in the arts, supporting both published scholarship and new creative activity. ARC also provides a forum to share, test, and critique new work by UC Berkeley artists, arts scholars, and visiting fellows. (Image on left by Allan deSouza)

Joining us in our mission is the SAAI Adivsory Board, with Dr. Dipti Mathur as the Chair and Kaushie Adiseshan, Renu Agrawal, Helen Desai, Raj Desai, Rakesh Mathur, and Anand Rajaraman as members of the Board. We are thrilled to welcome them and look forward to their guidance in advancing SAAI's mission and endeavors.


Allan deSouza 
Art Practice
Atreyee Gupta 
Assistant Professor
History of Art
Asma Kazmi 
Assistant Professor
Art Practice
Sugata Ray 
Associate Professor
History of Art
Joanna Williams 
Professor (Emerita)
History of Art


Wed, Sept 16, 2020 @9 am

Salima Hashmi
Rumours of Spring: Some Reflections on Pakistani Contemporary Art


Fri, Sept 18, 2020 @ 9 am

Jane and Kito de Boer + Deepanjana D. Klein
Vital Love: Collectors Speak Series


Thu, Oct 8, 2020 @9am

Allan deSouza + Gayatri Gopinath
Crisis and Creativity: Artists Speak Series


Oct 25-27, 2020

Mithu Sen and Brendan Fernandes
Crisis and Creativity: Virtual Artist in Residence



Thu, Nov 12, 2020 @9 am

Alwar Balasubramaniam + Atreyee Gupta
Crisis and Creativity: Artists Speak Series


Thu, Feb 18, 2021 @9 am

Naeem Mohaiemen + Yasufumi Nakamori
Crisis and Creativity: Artists Speak Series


Wed, Apr 7, 2021 @9 am

Gursharan Sidhu + Naman Ahuja
Vital Love: Collectors
Speak Series


Wed, Apr 7, 2021 @9 am

Asma Kazmi + Santhi Kavuri-Bauer
Crisis and Creativity: Artists Speak Series





Patrick Flores When Commitments Confuse Writing and Curating (Around) the Nature of Art History (5/8/2020)

Sugata Ray & Ranu Mukherjee Catastrophe & Storytelling Climate Change and Sacred Groves (5/4/2020)

Sanchita Saxena Who Makes Our Clothes? (2/27/2020)

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Kamalini Mukherji, Nandita Yasmin, Enacte Arts Tagore in out Times:The launch of the Tagore Program on Literature, Philosophy and Culture at UC Berkeley (2/22/2020) 

Sugata Ray Global Histories of Indian Cotton 


Sugata Ray Climate Change and the Art of Devotion: Geoaesthetics in the Land of Krishna, 1550–1850 (12/3/2020)

Jisha Menon Aesthetics of Waste: Consumer Desire & its Detritus in India (9/17/2020)

Omar Khan Paper Jewels: Postcards from the Raj (9/10/2020)

Catherine B. Asher The Qutb Complex: India and the Persianate World (4/12/2019)

Sarah Pinto The Arts of Counter-Ethics(2/8/2019)

Sandow Birk American Qur'an (10/22/2018)

Matti Braun Vikram Sarabhai - A Modern Indian Icon (10/13/2018)

Tapati Guha-Thakurta From Craftsmanship to Commercial Art (9/28/2018)


Stephanie Schrader Rembrandt and the Mughals (4/30/2018)


Nadia Samdani, Rajeeb Samdani, & Chitra Ganesh 
South Asian Art | Past, Present, Future (4/27/18)

Robert Del Bontà Ragamala Painting (7/8/2017)

Y.S. Alone Neo-Buddhist Visual Culture (9/8/2016) 

Iftikhar Dadi Urdu Cinema during the 50s (11/24/2014)

Parul Dave Mukherji Art History in India (9/17/2014) On the Common Sense of Indian Aesthetics (9/18/2014)

Alka Patel Geopolitics & Material Culture in North India (10/23/2014)

Qamar Adamjee Persia, India & a Zoroastrian silver bowl (03/13/2014)

Sugata Ray For the Love of Land (03/04/2013)

Salima Hashmi Guftugu: Faiz & his influence on Art (9/25/11)

Rajiv Lochan Art & South Asia (7/29/2007)

Artist Talks


Ali Asgar (Tara) In Between Lands and Territories: Love, Loss and Survival (10/15/2019)

Rina Banerjee Artist Talk (9/5/19)

Yasmin Nupur Art from Politics in Bangladesh(7/19/2019)

Haroon Mirza The Creative Repercussions of Counterculture(4/3/2019)

Allan deSouza How Art Can Be Thought: A Handbook for Change 10/26/2018)

Shuddhabrata Sengupta Kinetic Contemplation (11/6/2018)

Neha Choksi Exploring Absence (2/26/2018)

Atul Bhalla Ecoaesthetics: A Round Table (3/3/2016)

Pushpamala N. Performative Cultures (4/3/2015)

Indrani Baruah Creative Placemaking (11/4/2014)

Daisy Rockwell The Little Book of Terror (04/13/12)

Naiza Khan Contemporary Pakistani Art (10/16/11)

Anjolie Ela Menon Artist Talk (10/11/2010) 

Jatin Das Artist Talk (10/5/2009) 


Conferences, Workshops & FIlms  

I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in 4 Acts (2/6/2020)

Indian Ocean Art Histories: Goa; Bombay: Kochi(4/23/2019)

History of Art graduate students visit India as part of the 2019 Judith Stronach Travel Seminar

The Arts of South Asia & its Diasporas(10/26/18) 

Collecting South Asia: Archiving South Asia (02/18/2014)

A Retrospective: James Ivory In Person (Feb 20, 22, 23, 2019)

Panel: Art, Cinema, & Popular Culture in Bangladesh (2/22/2019)


When All That Is Solid Melts into Air Exploring the Intersection of the Folk and the Modern in Postcolonial India Exhibition

Cloth that Stretches: Exhibition (Feb 13- June 21, 2020)

Shuddhabrata Sengupta and the Raqs Media Collective (Nov 7, 2018)

Bay Area Conversations: The Arts of South Asia and its Diasporas (Oct 26, 2018)

Eco Art History: Genealogies, Methodologies, Practices, Horizons (May 4-5, 2018)

Cinephiles, Fandoms, and Global Media Cultures: Indian Cinema from a Transcultural Perspective (Oct 6, 2017)


Amit Dutta Three Shorts on Indian Painting (09/8/2017) 

Collecting South Asia: Archiving South Asia (2/18/14) CONF. REPORT

Five Tables of the Global Indian Ocean Exhibition (12/5/2019) 

The Rohingya: On the Edge of Existence (Fall 2018)

From Bombay to the Bay (Fall 2017)

Divine Visions, Earthly Pleasures: 500 Years of Indian Painting (Fall 2017)

Hidden Treasures: Berkeley’s South Asian Collections (Spring 2013)

Public Lives, Private Spaces New Art & Digital Media from Iran (April, 2010)

Echoes of Freedom: South Asian Pioneers in California, 1899-1965(Online Exhibit)

The Power of Patterns: Double Ikat for Textile Exchange in India and Indonesia (Online Exhibit)

Silicon Raj: Making a Difference to America's Future (Online Exhibit) 


Baatcheet around the Bay

ISAS at UC Berkeley was the leader in initiating a South Asia Art Collective designed to increase collaboration between universities, museums, and collectors in the Bay Area. The first program of the Collective was Baatcheet around the Bay, a program with the Asian Art Museum San Francisco, San Jose Museum of Art, Berkeley Art Museum, and Stanford University. Loosely based on the Japanese design-presentation model Pecha Kucha (pe-chak-cha) and short format TED talks, Baatcheet Around the Bay brought scholars, curators, students, visual and performance artists, collectors, art enthusiasts, and members of the Bay Area community together for a series of multimedia conversations over the course of one year (2011). Each Baatcheet consisted of several short (5-7 minute) presentations that incorporateed visual, audio, performative, and textual components. Each program shared the common goal of inciting dynamic, public conversations about art and visual culture of South Asia.

The focus for the Berkeley Baatcheet was to allow speakers the opportunity to examine the different ways in which art and visual culture, from both Pakistan and India, had been defined. Speakers included Professor of Art History Joanna Williams, writer and designer Zahid Sardar, Professor of Sanskrit Robert Goldman, and art collector Dipti Mathur. The Baatcheet was followed immediately by a Guftugu on contemporary art with renowned Pakistani artist Naiza Khan.

Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India (Fall 2006)

The first exhibition of its kind in the United States, Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India brought together an extraordinarily diverse selection of contemporary works by artists from throughout India, echoing the many ethnicities, languages, religions, political ideologies, and social strata that define the modern nation and reflecting the great changes that have been underway in India in recent decades, both in rural areas and in major urban centers.

Edge of Desire encompassed the work of nearly forty artists representing three generations. Some-such as Nalini Malani, the Raqs Media Collective (Monica Narula, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, and Jeebesh Bachi), Ranbir Kaleka, Atul Dodiya, and Nataraj Sharma, all of whom represented India in the 2005 Venice Biennale-have shown widely on the international stage.

Theater & Performing Arts   

Shanthi Pillai & Marc Gomes To The Academy (3/13/2019)

Lillette Dubey An Actor's Perspective (2/8/2018)

Mallika Sarabhai Dance to Change the World (9/15/17)

Mira Nair Between Worlds (5/7/2017)

Kirti Jain Performing Partition (4/20/2017)

Yakshagana (11/30/2016)

Shovana Narayan Stories thru Dance* (9/25/2015)


Prabhakar Joshy Yakshagana* (9/17/2015)

Lata Mani & Nicolás Grandi De Sidere 7: Desire's Vexed Status (05/01/14)

Mahmood Farooqui Festival of Dastangoi at Berkeley(11/7/2013)

Jean Claude Carriere In Search of the Mahabharata (3/16/2013)

Feisal Alkazi The Changing Role of Women in Indian Theater (04/25/2013)

Mahmood Farooqui Dastangoi: The Lost Art of Story-telling in Urdu (10/6/2012)

Shyam Benegal Fearless Females (09/4/2007)




Berkeley Art MuseumArts Research CenterDept. of History of ArtDept. of Art Practice




Berkeley Art
Berkeley Center for New MediaBerkeley Institute of
Berkeley-Haas Innovation


Townsend CenterCitris Invention Lab
Citris Tech Museum
Digital Humanities



Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation
Center for New Music & Audio Technologies


Goals and Fundraising plans for the Institute's Initiative on Visual Art

-  Endowed Annual lecture series on South Asian Art -
-  Artist-in-residence Program  -
-  Graduate Student Fellowships  -
-  Collaborations with museums and universities in South Asia  -
-  Biennial International Conference on South Asian Art  -
-  Curating a modern art exhibition with Bay Area partners  -