0308 The Designed Object and Its Imperial Histories: On T.N. Mukharji and the "Art-Manufactures of India"

  • Tapati Guha-Thakurta (Author)

    Tapati Guha-Thakurta is currently an Honorary Professor of History at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) and was its director from 2012 to 2017. She has written widely on the art and cultural history of modern India, and has held several visiting fellowships abroad. Her three main books are The Making of a New 'Indian' Art: Artists, Aesthetics and Nationalism in Bengal, c. 1850–1920 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India (New York City: Columbia University Press, and Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2004); and In the Name of the Goddess: The Durga Pujas of Contemporary Kolkata (Delhi: Primus Books, 2015). She is also the author of some exhibition monographs – among them, Visual Worlds of Modern Bengal (Calcutta: Seagull, 2002); The Aesthetics of the Popular Print (Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Calcutta, 2006); and The City in the Archive: Calcutta’s Visual Histories (CSSSC, Calcutta, 2011) – and has co-edited three anthologies of essays – Theorising the Present: Essays for Partha Chatterjee (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011); New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013); and How Secular is Art? On the Politics of Art, History and Religion in South Asia (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Identifiers (Article)


This essay locates a late 19th-century category of objects variously named as 'industrial' or 'decorative arts' within the specifically imperial institutional circuit of the World Exhibitions. Taking up a segment of the World Exhibitions of the 1880s, it traces a history which connects the three cities of Calcutta, London and Glasgow and creates a trail of travelling exhibits and museum collections of this most proliferating category of objects. It follows in particular the career of the Bengali exhibition commissioner and museum curator Trailokya Nath (T.N.) Mukharji and the anthology he compiled on the Art-Manufactures of India for the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1888 to map a specific network of commissioning, collecting, cataloguing and documenting India’s 'art-manufactures'.


Mukharji Trailokya Nath, decorative arts, Glasgow International Exhibition 1888, Calcutta International Exhibition 1883/84, Colonial and Indian Exhibition London 1886