Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), poet, curator and cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote’s creative and critical work primarily focuses on discourses around Indian art history, contemporary politics and cultural studies. Over the course of his career, Hoskote has authored and translated poetry, op-eds, art criticism and cultural theory, and has curated several national and international exhibitions. His body of work largely explores the role played by intersecting narratives of art, culture, religion and politics in the construction of identity in postcolonial nations.
After completing his secondary education at the Bombay Scottish School in the mid 1980s, Hoskote enrolled in Elphinstone College, Mumbai, where he majored in politics and actively engaged in debates around left-wing ideologies and the Indian Emergency. Owing to the proximity of his college to institutions such as the Jehangir Art Gallery and Max Mueller Bhavan, Hoskote developed an interest in the arts. The works of writers and poets such as Nissim Ezekiel, Adil Jussawala and Dom Moraes also proved influential during Hoskote’s postgraduate studies in English literature and aesthetics at the University of Bombay (now the University of Mumbai) and well into his subsequent writing career.
As a cultural theorist, Hoskote has examined the dynamics of cultural politics, emergent cosmopolitanism and transcultural encounters in the context of India after its economic liberalisation in the 1990s. His work challenges ideas of religious purity and a pan-national Indian identity by highlighting the complex cultural confluences within the country. His book Confluence: Forgotten Histories in East and West (2007), co-authored by the German writer Ilija Trajanow, is directly informed by these ideas.
From 1988–99, he served as an art critic at The Times of India and, from 2000–2007, as an art critic and senior editor at The Hindu. He has published biographies and monographs of several renowned contemporary artists, includingJehangir Sabavala, Tyeb Mehta, Bharti Kher and Sudhir Patwardhan, some of whose work he has curated as well. His articles on the works of Indian artists have considered both their visual and aesthetic concerns as well as their social, cultural and political contexts.
Hoskote is often considered alongside eminent art historians and critics such as Richard Bartholomew and Geeta Kapur for his theoretical and critical work. He has written widely about modes of cultural production, exchange and consumption, with a particular focus on the systems and machinery of the contemporary art world, such as grants, residencies, biennials and transnational projects, and imbalances of power therein. His writing has also highlighted the changing conditions and evolving roles of not just artists but also galleries, patrons and audiences. In 2011, Hoskote, along with wife Nancy Adajania, co-authored The Dialogues Series — a series of conversations on art and culture with contemporary Indian artists including Veer Munshi, Manu Parekh, Baiju Parthan, Anju Dodiya and Atul Dodiya.
At the age of twenty-five, Hoskote curated his first exhibition, titled Hinged by Light, at the Pundole Art Gallery in 1994, which included paintings and sculptures by the abstract artists Mehlli Gobhai, Prabhakar Kolte and Yogesh Rawal. In subsequent years, he curated exhibitions in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata and Panjim in India, as well as in Australia, Japan and Germany. Some of his most notable curatorial projects have been international art biennales. He co-curated the 7th Gwangju Biennale in South Korea along with Okwui Enwezor and Hyunjin Kim in 2008. Three years later, he curated India’s first-ever national pavilion at the Venice Biennale, titled ”Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode…”, which featured the work of Zarina Hashmi, Praneet Soi, Gigi Scaria and The Desire Machine Collective.
Hoskote has served as General Secretary of PEN All-India since 1986; he was a member of the jury in the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 and has served on the advisory boards of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, the Bergen Triennial in Norway, the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, New Delhi, the Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong and the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai. For his prolific and far-reaching work, Hoskote was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Golden Jubilee Award for Literature in 2004 and the SH Raza Award for Literature in 2006.
At the time of writing, Ranjit Hoskote lives and works in Mumbai.
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