Naman P Ahuja (b. 1974)
As a writer, academic and curator, Naman P Ahuja specialises in the history of ancient, mediaeval and early modern Indian art. His areas of interest include Indian iconography, temple architecture, Sultanate-era painting, and transcultural exchange between ancient India and the Greco-Roman world. He is the co-editor of Marg Publications and Dean of the School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where he has taught since 2006.
Ahuja studied history at Sri Venkateswara College, New Delhi. In 2001, he finished his PhD on iconography in ancient Indian terracotta art from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, UK. He continued to teach Indian art history at SOAS, as well as partner institutions such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s and the British Museum, where he also worked as curator between 2001 and 2002. He has also been a visiting lecturer at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, Italy; the University of Zürich, Switzerland; and the University of Alberta, Canada. He has undertaken multiple research fellowships, including at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in 2008; the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in 2010; and twice with the Getty Foundation, first in 2010 and again in 2011–2013.
As an academic, Ahuja has published his research in numerous anthologies such as Indian Terracotta Sculpture: The Early Period (2002), The Ananda-vana of India Art (2004), Iconography Now: Rewriting Art History? (2006), and InFlux: Contemporary Art in Asia (2012), which he also co-edited with Parul Dave Mukherji and Kavita Singh. Alongside these, he has authored The Arts and Interiors of Rashtrapati Bhavan: Lutyens and Beyond (2016), The Art and Archaeology of Ancient India: Earliest Times to the Sixth Century (2018) and, most recently, co-authored A Mediated Magic: The Indian Presence in Modernism 1880–1930 (2019) with Louise Belfrage, which traces the influence of Indian art on Western culture. He has also contributed to textbooks on Indian history published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training.
Ahuja’s curatorial projects, for which he has also written or co-written catalogues, include The Making of the Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman: Devi Prasad (2010) at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi on the sculptor Devi Prasad under whom he had studied; The Body in Indian Art and Thought, first shown at the Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Belgium as part of the Europalia Festival in 2013, and then at the National Museum, New Delhi in 2014; and most recently, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories (2018), a collaboration with the British Museum which was shown first at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, and then the National Museum.
Ahuja has been an outspoken critic of the bureaucratic structure by which Indian museums and archaeological collections are administered, arguing that the existing system is an impediment to fostering public and international engagement with Indian art. He has also highlighted the condition of archaeological sites in rural India, from where artefacts are frequently stolen and smuggled to the international black market.
At the time of writing, Ahuja lives and works in New Delhi, where he also has a pottery studio.
Ahuja, Naman P. “Why is liberalised India smuggling its heritage abroad?” The Hindu, July 22, 2012. https://www.thehindu.com/arts/why-is-liberalised-india-smuggling-its-heritage-abroad/article3666911.ece.
Bhuyan, Avantika. "Art curator Naman Ahuja Is making art more accessible." Business Standard, September 26, 2014. https://www.business-standard.com/article/specials/naman-ahuja-is-mastering-the-art-of-reaching-out-114092501180_1.html.
Mirror, Mumbai. "Historian Naman Ahuja to Launch His next Book Titled A Mediated Magic: The Indian Presence in Modernism 1880-1930." Mumbai Mirror, October 23, 2019. https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/the-informer/india-centric/articleshow/71713507.cms.
Museum of Art & Photography. "Naman P. Ahuja." Accessed June 25, 2021. https://map-india.org/team-member/naman-p-ahuja/.
"Naman P. Ahuja." Jawaharlal Nehru University. Accessed June 25, 2021. https://www.jnu.ac.in/content/nahuja.
Puri, Anjali. "He Makes History Speak." Rediff, July 07, 2018. https://www.rediff.com/news/special/he-makes-history-speak/20180707.htm.
Sharma, Aasheesh. "Naman Ahuja: meet the scholar gypsy." Hindustan Times, April 20, 2014. https://www.hindustantimes.com/brunch/naman-ahuja-meet-the-scholar-gypsy/story-w3r5qyhIKdEi0JvMV7nO6I.html.