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LECTURE: Rebecca Brown, "Gandhis and Bulls, Murals and Doorknobs: A Peek inside India’s Presidential Collections"

  • The Suburban Club 7600 Park Heights Avenue Pikesville, MD, 21208 United States (map)

Gandhis and Bulls, Murals and Doorknobs: A Peek inside India’s Presidential Collections
Rebecca Brown, associate professor in history of art and chair of Advanced Academic Program in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University, Editor-in-Chief of Art Journal

Standing at the end of the grand urban axis of New Delhi, Rashtrapati Bhavan, the residence of the President of India and formerly the seat of the Viceroy to the British crown, houses an extensive collection of artworks rarely seen by the public. Built in the 1930s, the building’s inlaid floors, ceiling murals, fireplace inserts, furniture, textiles, and even door knobs were all meticulously designed by the British architect Edwin Lutyens. Paintings were brought from all corners of India and the Empire to decorate the house, and many were commissioned especially for its grand dining rooms and library. Upon independence in 1947, the new incumbents of the house changed some, but not all, of the decoration, inviting top modern artists to paint presidential portraits, changing doorknobs from imperial lions to the Ashokan wheel symbol of India, and moving many of the colonial objects to what is today called the “marble museum.” It remains quite difficult for the public to access this incredible house and its art collections. This lecture will provide a rare glimpse inside and a chance to ponder the fascinating complexities of an imperial-turned-national collection.

$15 door fee for guests and subscribers