From Ajanta (India) to Sydenham (South London): Researching the Historic Exhibition and the London, Asia Research Project

Sarah Victoria Turner discusses representations of South Asia in nineteenth and early-twentieth century exhibitions in Britain, focusing on ‘copies’ of ancient paintings of the Ajanta Buddhist cave-temples exhibited at the 1911 Festival of Empire in Sydenham, South London.

Turner raises broader questions about the purpose and problematics of exhibition histories, and how we go about recreating and reconstructing the historic exhibition. What sources, materials, archives, documents, and records are available to the historian of exhibitions? Exhibition histories are always fragile, open-ended, and never definitive; but they can also be productive of new kinds of histories attentive to the networks of circulation, reception, and display created by the exhibition and its afterlives.

This talk is part of a series of programmes for London, Asia, a collaboration between Asia Art Archive and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

Sarah Victoria Turner is the Deputy Director for Research at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in London. She is the co-editor of British Art Studies, an open-access digital journal co-published with the Yale Center for British Art. Turner also teaches art history and is Visiting Senior Lecturer at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Her research interests encompass many aspects of British art from 1850 to 1950, and she has published in exhibition catalogues, academic publications, and online. Most recently, she co-edited After 1851: The Material and Visual Cultures of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham with Kate Nichols. In 2018, she will co-curate a major exhibition with Mark Hallett at the Royal Academy of Arts in London to mark 250 years of the academy’s summer exhibitions. Turner was recently named one of Apollo Magazine’s ‘40 Under 40’ in the European art world.

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