Curious Cabinets: Kunstkammer meets White Cube at the Salar Jung Museum

kgs gouache devi

K.G.Subramanyan, New Works, 2014 and How Strong the Breeze, How Precious The Flight, 2014
Parallel Exhibitions at the Salar Jung Museum, July 2014

And so it begins! Or so it began. What better place to start a museum blog titled Ajeeb Ghar/Wonder-House than in one of the strangest, most wonder-filled museums in India.. Lauded as the country’s third largest national museum, the Salar Jung museum is an idiosyncratic, one-man collection in Hyderabad that dates back three generations but achieved its current public museum form in 1951. And what better time to write about this strange museum than July 2013 when it opened its doors to two extraordinary contemporary art exhibitions: a 90th year retrospective of one of India’s most respected and beloved senior artists (K.G.Subramanyan); and a group show by graduating arts students at the other end of the career spectrum. Continue reading

So, what’s an Ajeeb Ghar anyway?

Worm sepia

Ajeeb Ghar, n./əʤi:b ghər/
Strange House, Wonder House, Magic House, Cabinet of Curiosity
Etymology: ajeeb < Urdu, strange, wondrous, wonderful, anomalous + ghar < Sanskri, home, residence, location.
Synonyms: Ajaib ghar, Ajeeb khana. Jadu ghar

First introduced to English-speaking readers of literary fiction through Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, the term Ajeeb Ghar continues to be used to refer to all museums in South Asia. The literal translation from the Urdu is Strange House or Wonder House.  But wonder and strange can have multiple meanings in the museum world.  The original and eponymous Ajeeb Ghar was the fabulous Lahore museum with which Kim opens, where Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard’s father) was curator. In Kim and other historical or literary accounts, Ajeeb Ghar was a magical – even wondrous – place where 18th and 19th century viewers encountered marvelous, astonishing things from around the world and across oceans, from royal palaces to everyday lives.

Continue reading