A Fragile Inheritance

Radical Stakes in Contemporary Indian Art

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 64 illustrations Published: October 2019

Author: Saloni Mathur

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Asian Studies > South Asia, Cultural Studies

In A Fragile Inheritance Saloni Mathur investigates the work of two seminal figures from the global South: the New Delhi-based critic and curator Geeta Kapur and contemporary multimedia artist Vivan Sundaram. Examining their written and visual works over the past fifty years, Mathur illuminates how her protagonists’ political and aesthetic commitments intersect and foreground uncertainty, difficulty, conflict, and contradiction. This book presents new understandings of the culture and politics of decolonization and the role of non-Western aesthetic avant-gardes within the discourses of contemporary art. Through skillful interpretation of Sundaram's and Kapur’s practices, Mathur demonstrates how received notions of mainstream art history may be investigated and subjected to creative redefinition. Her scholarly methodology offers an impassioned model of critical aesthetics and advances a radical understanding of art and politics in our time.


“This critical retake on the work of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram offers a deeply informed reading of their joint and separate works but also turns the biographical norm inside out, reading their lives as illuminations of their tempestuous times and not simply as cases or examples of larger processes. It will be read with keen interest by anyone who cares about the making of modern art worlds in places like India.” — Arjun Appadurai, Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University

“Saloni Mathur's A Fragile Inheritance immerses the reader in the long march of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram, leading figures of India's avant-garde in criticism and artistic practice. Against the background of the indescribable complexity of India's many languages, political parties, and aesthetic movements, Mathur traces parallel and intersecting careers with a brilliant sense of the improvisatory, provisional, and timely character of their numerous interventions over half a century. Renouncing any claim to survey the art of India, or to provide a progressive narrative of relentless novelty, Mathur provides an in-depth account of works, projects, ideas, and the situations in which they arose. Writing ‘alongside’ rather than ‘about’ the work of these two essential figures, Mathur offers a striking model of engaged critical practice in a project that is far from finished.” — W. J. T. Mitchell, author of Image Science: Iconology, Visual Culture, and Media Aesthetics


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95
Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Saloni Mathur is Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles, author of India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display, and coeditor of No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  vii
Introduction: Radical Stakes  1
1. Earthly Ecologies  40
2. The Edifice Complex  72
3. The World, the Art, and the Critic  96
4. Urban Economies  129
Epilogue: Late Styles  160
Notes  185
Bibliography  211
Index  225
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0301-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0186-7
Funding Information This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem) – a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries – and the generous support of Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, and the UCLA Library. Learn more at the TOME website, available at: openmonographs.org.