Peabody Essex Museum

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Peabody Essex Museum

Salem, MA


Siddhartha V. Shah appointed

Curator of Indian and South Asian Art

We are delighted to announce that Siddhartha V. Shah is the new Curator of Indian and South Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. Shah will begin his new position in June 2018. He comes to PEM from Columbia University, New York with academic interests that include the aesthetics of imperial rule in British India, Tantric cults of the Divine Feminine and late 19th century British and French painting. Marilyn Hoffman and Connie Rosemont of Museum Search and Reference ran the international search for this position at PEM.

In addition to working as an independent curator, Shah spent 15 years as a gallerist, specializing in Hindu and Buddhist art of the Kathmandu Valley as well as modern and contemporary Indian art.

Shah's academic and curatorial projects have been featured in publications ranging from India Today and The Times of India to Psychology Today and The New Yorker. His 2011 exhibition at the Serindia Gallery in Bangkok, Tales of Love and Betrayal: A Modern Retelling of the Ramayana, brought together the works of three Indian artists - Nirmala Biluka, Ananda Gadapa and M.F. Husain - to present a retelling of the ancient epic through a modern visual language.

"Siddhartha Shah is a warm, bold and entrepreneurial art professional with wide-ranging interests in South Asian art," said Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, PEM's James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Deputy Director. "Just as the South Asian field is evolving, in all of his professional, academic and curatorial work, he seeks to bring the rich, multi-faceted traditions of South Asia into more current, relevant conversations about social and religious diversity, tolerance and inclusion."

Shah, a native of Chicago, earned his BA in European and classical Greek art history from Johns Hopkins University in 2000, his MA in Jungian psychoanalysis and Indian philosophy from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 2003 and his MA in art history and archaeology at Columbia University in 2015. Shah will complete his PhD dissertation, Ornamenting the Raj: Opulence and Spectacle in British India, 1851-1903, at Columbia this year.

At PEM, Shah will develop exhibitions of the artists, communities and traditions of South Asia. PEM is home to the most important collection of modern-era Indian art, from colonial times to the present, outside of India. In 2001, the acquisition of the Chester and Davida Herwitz collection of post-Independence art from India established PEM as the first museum outside of India to focus on the achievements of its modern artists. With this unparalleled collection, Shah will advance an appreciation for the living artistic traditions of India and South Asia, both locally and globally. "These artistic traditions are - and have always been - dynamic, ever-evolving and forward-moving," says Shah. "The Herwitz Collection, in particular, allows us to present the art of South Asia and its diverse cultures as connected to the past while looking firmly to the future. With such an extraordinary collection of modern works, we have the ability to initiate new conversations and expand old perceptions."

Many people helped with this search as nominators, references or candidates, and Connie and Marilyn are grateful to each of them.