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Ciotti, Manuela

Manuela Ciotti

NIAS Individual Fellow

Project title

Unmooring the nation: A global ethnography of the spread of modern and contemporary art from India

Research question

What does it mean to display, circulate and sell art in the 21st century? And what does it mean to do this out of the global south?

Project description

The politics of presence produced by the circulation of modern and contemporary art out of India since the 2000s is at the core of my book monograph entitled Unmooring the nation: A global ethnography of the spread of modern and contemporary art from India. The book is the outcome of a research project started over a decade ago under the Framing the Global (FdG) initiative at Indiana University. For this project, I carried out fieldwork on five exhibitions (or series of them) held at biennales, museums and galleries in Asia, Europe and the USA and several digital spaces. Exhibitions are as follows: ‘The Empire strikes back: Indian art today’ (London, 2010), the India Pavilions at the Venice Biennale (2011-2019), the Mumbai Pavilion at the Shanghai Biennale (2012), the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) (2012-2022), and ‘After midnight: Indian modern and contemporary art 1947-1997’ at the Queens Museum in New York (2015).

The book argues that the terrains over which the politics around art from India is transacted in contemporary times and its ripple effect globally cannot be traced back to a single oppositional logic that pits the ‘postcolony’ against ‘Europe’. This is because the globalization of the art world has opened up a broader dialogue between ‘India and the rest’ – unsettling India’s historical geopolitical and economic interests. This leads to ‘nation’ being differently projected and spoken about according to the diverse locations in which art from India is exhibited and traded. While ‘nation’ is unmoored through the geographical movements of art, rather than disappearing, it re-configures itself under novel semblances by virtue of global art world dynamics in physical and digital spaces. Unmooring the nation is under contract with Indiana University Press.

Selected publications

Ciotti M 2022. A mandala of value: A granular approach to art valuation across geopolitical fragments. In O. Salemink et Al. (eds.) Global art in local artworlds: De-centering and re-centering Europe in the global hierarchy of value. London: Routledge, 222–226

Zitzewitz K and Ciotti M. 2022. Art and anthropology: Twenty-five years of The Traffic in Culture. Journal of Material Culture, 27(1), 3–9

Zitzewitz K, Ciotti M, Marcus GE and Myers FR. 2022. Refiguring art and anthropology, for whom? A conversation with George E. Marcus and Fred R. Myers. Journal of Material Culture, 27(1), 71–87

Ciotti M 2022. One art work, two Mother Indias, many Pushpamalas: Re-imagining art, politics and biopolitics. In S. Ramaswamy and M. Juneja (eds.) Motherland: Pushpamala N’s Woman and Nation. New Delhi: Roli Books, 82-93

Ciotti M 2022. India’s ’first pavilion’ in Venice. In P. Mitter, P. Dave Mukherjii and R. Balaram (eds.) Twentieth-century Indian art: Modern post-independence contemporary. London: Thames & Hudson, 301-302

Ciotti M 2020. The artist Karl Marx and the auctioned god: ‘Post-practice’ ethnographies of the art world, impossible collaborations, and renewable anthropologies. Journal of Cultural Economy, 13(6): 725-742

Ciotti M 2020. Art and Global South: ‘Playing Venice’ at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB). New Global Studies, 14 (3): 327–351.

Ciotti M 2014. Art institutions as global forms in India and beyond: Cultural production, temporality and place. In H. Kahn (ed.) Framing the global. Entry points for research. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, pp. 51-66.

Ciotti M 2012. Post-colonial renaissance: ‘Indianness’, contemporary art and the market in the age of neoliberal capital. Third World Quarterly, 33(4): 633-651.