Paper Trails: Modern Indian Works on Paper from the Gaur Collection Exhibition Premieres at Grinnell College Museum of Art

September 12, 2022

On Tuesday, September 27, the Grinnell College Museum of Art (GCMoA) will open Paper Trails: Modern Indian Works on Paper from the Gaur Collection continuing through Saturday, December 10. A public conversation and opening reception will be held on Friday, September 30, beginning at 5 pm.  

Arpita Singh, Indian, b. 1937. I could see London through clouds, 2007. Multiple-plate etching. Collection of Umesh & Sunanda Gaur.
Arpita Singh, Indian, b. 1937. I could see London through clouds, 2007. Multiple-plate etching. Collection of Umesh & Sunanda Gaur.

This exhibition features watercolors, drawings, etchings, sketches, and lithographs by Indian modernists, born primarily before the 1950s who came of age in the decades following Independence in 1947. These artists span the transition from colonial to postcolonial India, embrace both realism and abstraction, explore complex metaphors, and make political statements that directly engage India’s past, present, and future.  

Paper Trails, featuring 90 works from the collection of Umesh and Sunanda Gaur, offered Grinnell College the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and students at Rutgers University. The exhibition was curated during a Curatorial Studies seminar in Rutgers University’s Department of Art History. Professor Tamara Sears, a specialist in South Asian art and architecture, taught the graduate level course, with student participation from Emma Oslé, Swathi Gorle, Margo Weitzman, Sopio Gagoshidze, William Green, and David Cohen. 

During the Spring 2022 semester, Grinnell College Art History Professor Michael Mackenzie taught an introductory course in Indian art and assigned his students to do research about works included in Paper Trails. The text written by his students will be used as wall text for the exhibition along with text prepared by Rutgers students. Dr. Mackenzie’s primary specialty is German Modernism between the World Wars with additional academic interest in the art of India. His knowledge of Modernism and Indian art reflects the origin story of the Gaurs’ collection, which began twenty-five years ago with works by members of the Bombay Progressive Artists Group. This short-lived movement was founded in 1947 to celebrate traditional Indian painting while acknowledging European and American Modernism.  

Professor Sears and Professor Mackenzie also wrote essays for the catalogue. Additional catalogue contributions were made by Paula Sengupta, Emma Oslé, Darielle Mason, Rebecca Brown, and Jeffrey Wechsler. Wechsler served as a curatorial consultant for the exhibition. Grinnell College President Anne Harris penned the foreword to the catalogue. The publication was made possible by a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. 

In 2017, the Grinnell College Museum of Art hosted the exhibition Many Visions, Many Versions—Art from Indigenous Communities in India,” organized by International Arts and Artists from the Gaurs’ collection. The positive response to that exhibition led to Paper Trails: Modern Indian Works on Paper from the Gaur Collection.”  

Museum Director Susan Baley emphasizes the importance of the continued relationship with the Gaurs, saying, “The Grinnell College Museum of Art is grateful to Umesh and Sunanda Gaur for sharing their collection with our audiences in rural Iowa. The Gaurs’ generous spirit is reflected in their dedication to the educational impact of the collection when it is exhibited—especially in an area where there are few opportunities to view modern and contemporary art from India.”  

Related Events and Programs 

Conversation and Opening Reception 
Friday, September 30, 5 p.m. 

Grinnell College Professor of Art History Michael Mackenzie will moderate a conversation with collectors Umesh and Sunanda Gaur and curator Tamara Sears, Associate Professor of Art History at Rutgers University, regarding the making of the exhibition, the development of modernism in India, and its relationship to global art more broadly. Topics will include processes of collecting, curating, and teaching the art of South Asia in the contemporary world. Reception to follow. The public is invited to attend the public conversation and opening reception.  

Spotlight Talk 
Monday, October 10, 4:15 p.m. 

Grinnell College students in Professor of Art History Michael Mackenzie’s class, Art 295: The Art of Decolonization: Modern and Contemporary Art of India and South Asia, researched artists and works on view in Paper Trails. Join them for one-on-one conversations about selected works in the exhibition. 

Gallery Talk 
Tuesday, October 25, 4 p.m. 

Vishal Khandelwal: “Traveling Tales: Architecture, Ethnography, and Design Pedagogy in India” 

Vishal Khandelwal, Harvard University Department of History of Art and Architecture, specializes in modern and contemporary architecture, design, art, and visual culture with a focus on South Asia. His current book manuscript analyzes design and art pedagogy and practice at the National Institute of Design in India through the work of key individuals who taught visual communication, textile design, architecture, and product design at this experimental design school and at other academies in Ahmedabad and beyond between 1955 and 1985. Co-sponsored by Grinnell College Art History Department.  

Information for visitors  

Grinnell College Museum of Art, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, 1108 Park St., Grinnell. Information about the exhibition and programming available at: or call 641-269-4660.  

The museum is open to the public and always free. Visitors may use the west (Park Street facing) or north (campus facing) doors to the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.  Minors under age 18 need to be accompanied by an adult.  

Grinnell College welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Find information about parking and accessibility and accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or   

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