India has rich traditions of art that stretch back ten thousand years to the prehistoric cave paintings at Bhimbetka. What came as a shock to Nathaniel Gaskell, the director of the Museum of Art and Photography Academy—the research wing of the MAP, Bengaluru—was the dearth of authoritative information on Indian art. “I also realised that the information that is available has been long narrated through the Western lens, and the language is full of jargon that not everyone can understand,” Gaskell told me.
On 22 April 2022, in an attempt to do something about this relative paucity of literature, Gaskell launched an encyclopaedia of Indian art, a digital platform that endeavours to transform the way South Asia’s art histories are accessed, taught and discussed—both regionally and globally. With over two thousand entries, the platform allows anyone to systematically approach the breadth of the region’s art histories.
“I came up with the idea around three years ago and I had broadly two goals: first, providing a wider access to the people, and secondly, to make the writing jargon-free and unbiased,” Gaskell said. “Up till now, people are reading about Indian art from Western perspective. With the encyclopaedia, we want to bring a shift.”