The archive of Mrinalini Mukherjee (1949–2015) documents the career of one of the most prominent modernist sculptors from India, who, beginning in the 1970s, challenged existing norms of sculptural practice, which was a predominantly male domain. Comprising over 2,185 records, the highlights include photo-documentation of art historical sites and traditional art forms; installation instructions and detailed documentation of her monumental sculptural works; papers such as correspondences, manuscripts, and photo-documentation relating to the art community in India; and a small but significant set of documents on her mother, sculptor Leela Mukherjee. The collection brings out interconnected art histories that ran through her life and practice—her personal and professional relationships with artists, writers, and curators; and her engagement with art institutions in various capacities.
Mrinalini Mukherjee was born to artist parents—Benode Behari Mukherjee, a renowned artist and teacher at Santiniketan, and Leela Mukherjee, an eminent sculptor and art teacher. Mukherjee completed her training in painting and mural design at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda (1965–1972). During her student years, Mukherjee experimented with natural fibres like jute and hemp for the first time, as part of making objects for the Fine Arts Fair. Soon after completing her studies, Mukherjee moved to Delhi’s Nizamuddin area in the early 1970s, which was a hub for designers and architects, facilitating her large-scale public projects and commissions in fibre works. In 1978, Mukherjee received a British Council Scholarship to study sculpture at West Surrey College of Art and Design in the UK. After her return, she received a fellowship in 1981 to work at Garhi Studios, set up by the Lalit Kala Akademi in Delhi. From the early days of her practice, Mukherjee’s trajectory intersected with key artistic figures in India, including her teachers and peers at Baroda and Delhi, and artists such as K. G. Subramanyan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Nilima Sheikh, Nagji Patel, Bhupen Khakhar, J. Swaminathan, and critic Geeta Kapur among others.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Mukherjee travelled extensively across India, Europe, and Southeast Asia, with her then-architect-husband Ranjit Singh, documenting several sites of art historical and archaeological importance, including temple architecture, sculpture, and traditional art forms. In this period, she took part in several group exhibitions in India and abroad, including the Paris Biennale (1980); Sydney Biennale (1986); Festival of India in Japan (1988); Mrinalini Mukherjee Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (1994); and Asia Pacific Triennial (1996). Mukherjee also served on the Advisory Board of Roopankar Museum at Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal (1986–90), and the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi (1994). In 1995, Mukherjee began experimenting with ceramics, and further developed in terms of scale and technique, at the European Ceramic Work Centre (EKWC) in Hertogenbosch, Netherlands (1996 and 2000). In the early 2000s, Mukherjee began working in bronze using lost-wax casting and held several exhibitions of her sculptures. In 2015, her retrospective exhibition Transfigurations opened at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, posthumously. Phenomenal Nature: Mrinalini Mukherjee, the first retrospective of Mukherjee’s works in the USA was organised in 2019 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, with an accompanying publication.
Description of Series
The Mrinalini Mukherjee Archive is organised into twelve series consisting of a wide range of materials relating to her practice and the art communities she was a part of. Highlights from the collection include Art Process Documentation (Series 3), which features photographs of installation experiments and unique instructions for the installation of Mukherjee’s fibre sculptures; and Photo Documentation of Art Historical and Cultural Sites (Series 4).
- Photo Documentation of Artwork and Exhibitions: Images of completed artworks in fibre, ceramic, and bronze; and exhibitions featuring Mukherjee’s work [1970–2014]
- Art Process Documentation: Research material, sketches, diagrams, and photographs of studio experiments related to the making and display of Mukherjee’s work, including detailed hand-drawn installation instructions [1970–2010]
- Photo Documentation of Art Historical and Cultural Sites: Photographs of Mukherjee’s extensive travels with her then-architect husband Ranjit Singh, featuring documentation of classical sculpture, traditional art forms, architectural sites, and performative practices [1980–98]
- Residencies, Workshops, Projects: Files related to programmes and projects in which Mukherjee participated, including Paris Biennale, Sydney Biennale, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, and European Ceramic Centre, Netherlands [1978–2000]
- Personal, Family, and Student Days Photographs: Photographs featuring portraits of the artist, photographs of her artist-parents, Leela Mukherjee and Benode Behari Mukherjee, and a set of photographs from her student days in Baroda [1960–2006]
- Lecture Notes, Interviews, and Biographical Notes: Files including Mukherjee’s interviews, biographical notes, and a set of lecture notes she presented during her travels [1989–98]
- Exhibition Catalogues and Ephemera: Documents include catalogues of Mukherjee’s solo and group exhibitions, and a set of event ephemera related to her exhibitions [1975–2014]
- Writings about Mrinalini Mukherjee: Papers comprising published essays, manuscripts, reviews in magazines, and newspaper clippings [1972–2014]
- Correspondence: Includes personal correspondences with friends and peers, including Nilima Sheikh, Bhupen Khakhar, and K. G. Subramanyan, and professional correspondences with museums, galleries, and other arts organisations [1977–2014]
- Committee Work Files: Papers related to various art institutions and initiatives that Mukherjee was part of in an advisory capacity, including Bharat Bhavan, National Gallery of Modern Art, and Benode Behari Mukherjee Centenary Exhibition [1969–2007]
- Documents on Artists and Art Organisations: Documents related to Mukherjee’s peers, including photographs of works of other sculptors, such as Krishnakumar, Valsan Kolleri, and Somnath Hore, as well as files related to Lalit Kala Akademi and Sahmat [1959–2013]
- Leela Mukherjee Archive: Documents relating to her mother, the sculptor Leela Mukherjee, which range from research materials, rare catalogues and ephemera to manuscripts, reviews, and documentation of sculptures and drawings [1941–2001]
1941–2014, bulk 1976–2010
Materials are mostly in Bengali, English, Hindi, Marathi, and Sindhi. A small fraction of materials are in Swedish and French.
Open for research. Onsite-only and restricted materials—including but not limited to correspondence, newspaper clippings, and unpublished writings—are available for consultation at AAA in Hong Kong, New Delhi, and New York. Please make an appointment at email@example.com at least one week in advance.
Subject to all copyright laws. Permission to publish materials must be obtained from copyright owners. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further enquiries.
History and Project Team
Digitisation of select materials from the Mrinalini Mukherjee Archive, maintained in the artist’s studio space in New Delhi by the Mrinalini Mukherjee Foundation, began in March 2020. The collection was launched on AAA’s website in September 2022.
The project team includes Researcher Noopur Desai, Collections Assistant Pallavi Arora, Project Assistant Anshu Jakhar, and Digitisation Assistant Sunil Kumar Mahawar, with support from Stephen Lam and Gabrielle Chan.
The Mrinalini Mukherjee Archive project was generously supported by the Mrinalini Mukherjee Foundation (MMF), Mumbai. Godrej Seeds and Genetics Ltd supported operations of the project.