New Delhi: India may have seen a revolution in the world of literature, publishing and contemporary art, but government museums continue to be "bleak and boringly displayed spaces" with very poor standards of conservation and display, says writer-historian William Dalrymple.
"The Indian museum world has allowed itself to become frozen into a 1950`s Nehruvian permafrost. It is one of the least changed parts of India`s cultural life. There has been a revolution in the world of literature and publishing, and in the world of contemporary art, but government museums are bleak and boringly displayed spaces with very poor standards of conservation and display," he laments.
"Indian museums rarely lend to international exhibitions and rarely show the kind of touring exhibitions which form such a major part of the cultural life of other great capitals. It`s a tragic situation," Dalrymple, who has edited a book titled "Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi: 1707- 1857" along with art historian Yuthika Sharma, told PTI in an interview.
The book, published by Penguin, was the result of an exhibition in New York which was the billed as the first ever to focus on the art of the later Mughals.
The collection examines Mughal artistic culture in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the interwoven nature of Mughal, European and regional patronage.
According to Dalrymple, scholars are only now coming to recognise that the work of this period is every bit as interesting and innovative as the art produced under the better-known Great Mughals of the 17th century.
"The exhibition in New York out of which this book emerged aimed to showcase the neglected masterpieces of this period and to give a taste of the extraordinary strength, colour and vivacity of the work produced in the Mughal capital at this time."
He took the "Princess and Painters in Mughal Delhi" project thinking it would take a few weeks of work, but in the end it took nearly five years.
"Because scholars are only now coming to recognise that the work of this period is every bit as interesting and innovative as the art produced under Great Mughals on the 17th Century much of it remains in the hands of private collectors, not institutions, and you have to turn into the art historical equivalent of Sherlock Holmes to find out where it is."
He says Yuthika Sharma was an inspiration to work with and he "learned a huge amount from her".