Susan S Bean
An art historian, curator and editor, Susan S Bean has studied art and visual cultures from South Asia, Korea and North America. Bean trained as an anthropologist, completing her BA from Brown University in 1965 and PhD from Columbia University in 1972. She was appointed Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Yale University the same year, after which she worked as an Associate Professor from 1978–82. Between 1983 and 2012, she was the curator for South Asian and Korean Art at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), Massachusetts. After her acquisition of the Herwitz Collection of Modern & Contemporary Indian Art, she established the PEM’s South Asian collection as the first in the United States to focus on art from the region’s colonial period to the present.
Bean has authored numerous books on visual arts from South Asia, including paintings, sculptures and textiles, with an emphasis on art and trade during and after the colonial period. The areas of her scholarship include the role and significance of khadi in Gandhian nationalism; the Indian origins of the bandanna; Indian sculpture in the post-Independence era; and American encounters with Indian art in the 1800s. She has also studied the early modern period through her work on vernacular arts, particularly of the clay sculptures of Bengal, and Indian textile and costume traditions. She collaborated with artist Diana Myers on the award-winning travelling exhibition From the Land of the Thunder Dragon: Textile Arts of Bhutan (1994–96), which was later documented in The Arts of Bhutan (2015), a magazine issue published while she was a guest editor at Marg. She also curated multiple exhibitions at the PEM, including Exposing the Source: Paintings by Nalini Malani (2005), Epic India: MF Husain’s Mahabharata Project (2006) and Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence (2013), which presented works from three generations of Indian Modernist painting from Independence till the 1990s.
As of this writing, she is the chairperson of the Art and Archaeology Center of the American Institute of Indian Studies in Gurugram, Haryana and an associate of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography at Harvard University.
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