SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Shalimar and Shrimp Pink: The Met's 1985 Costumes of Royal India Exhibition

Rebecca M. Brown (Johns Hopkins University)

Date: 18 January 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 18 January 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B104

Type of Event: Seminar

As part of the 1985-86 Festival of India in the U.S., New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art staged The Costumes of Royal India, a spectacular exhibition curated by former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Working with textile experts in India, most notably Martand Singh, Vreeland's exhibition combined the titular costumes with gold mannequins, grand colonial-era oil paintings, the decorated form of a life-sized elephant carrying a royal howdah, and a set of painted photographs of Indian princes. Often dismissed as an Orientalist pastiche (a characterization that is not entirely unfair), the exhibition's particular confection of objects and set pieces illuminates a particular relation to India situated in the mid-1980s, one that inadvertently sheds light on some of the other, more scholarly exhibitions staged at the Met and elsewhere as part of the Festival.