Dipti Khera, Ph.D.


Dipti Khera is Assistant Professor of South Asian Art at the Department of Art History and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. She earned her PhD in Art History and her MA in Museum Anthropology from Columbia University. She is presently writing a book and developing an exhibition with the Arthur M. Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington, D.C., and the City Palace Museum, Udaipur, that reveal the major shift in Indian art represented by Udaipur painters’ engagement with conceptualizing place, representing reality, and imagining territoriality. Along with specializing in premodern and early modern South Asian architecture and Indian Painting, she has pursued research interests in nineteenth century design, modern architecture, and contemporary heritage landscapes in order to understand the longer history of cross- cultural exchanges in the visual, material, and built worlds of the subcontinent. Her publications include “‘Designs to Suit Every Taste’: P. Orr and Sons and Swami silver,” in Delight in Design: Indian silver for the Raj and “Engraved Epics: Ornamented Metal Objects,” in Treasures of the Albert Hall. Her recent research has been supported by fellowships awarded by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Institute of Indian Studies, and Yale University. 

Painted Invitation Letter (Vijñaptipatra) sent from Udaipur, 1830. 72 feet x 11 inches. Artist Unknown. Agarchand Jain Granthalya, Bikaner, Rajasthan (Detail)
Rana Amar Singh II in Udaipur during a monsoon downpour, ca. 1700. 109.2 x 175.2 cm. Purchase and partial gift made in 2012 from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection, Accession Number: F2012.4.2. Courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Research Project

Feeling of a Place: Art, Affect and Authority Between Mughal and British Empires

Painters from the city of Udaipur in Northwestern India specialized in picturing places – the courtly worlds and cities of rajas, sacralized landscapes of many gods, and bazaars bustling with merchants, pilgrims, and craftsmen. These wide-ranging eighteenth and nineteenth century objects, from large-scale court paintings, three to five feet long, to painted invitation letter-scrolls up to seventy-two feet long, presented Udaipur’s local streets and lake-palaces as well as Northern India’s prominent temples in Banaras and British durbars held in Ajmer. In a time period of profound political and artistic transition, powerful affective pictures of pleasurable and flourishing places and of artistic vibrancy suggest histories distinct from the stories of decadence narrated within colonial textual and visual accounts.
As a fellow of Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices, Khera will write her book Feeling of a Place: Art, Affect and Authority Between Mughal and British Empires, which interprets the major aesthetic, epistemic and political shifts that shaped the art of place and landscape from late seventeenth to mid-nineteenth century South Asia. What did it mean for painters to envision the feeling of a place? How did painters forge sentimental ways to attach themselves and their audiences to particular locales and to constitute the effective power of diverse patrons? By tracing the circulation of people, objects and ideas within local and global circuits from hitherto unexamined place-centric pictures, this book questions the disciplinary boundaries that divide arts and histories of courtly, pilgrimage, mercantile and Indo-British worlds. The connections painters established across the spheres of art, architecture, literature, politics, trade and religion, in turn, challenge the divisions that shape our disciplinary frameworks.

Talks in the context of the Fellowship

"Places and Pictures between Praise and Decline in India's Long Eighteenth Century"
HU Fellow Talks
Tue 28 Jun 2016, 6 pm
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Georgenstr. 47, 10117 Berlin

""Feeling of a Space": An Art History of Praise and Place in Eighteenth-Century India"
Art Histories Seminar
Mon 20 Jun 2016, 5 pm
Forum Transregionale Studien

Publications related to the Fellowship

Khera, Dipti: "Marginal, Mobile, Multilayered: Painted Invitation Letters as Bazaar Objects in Early Modern India." Journal18 1 (2016).