Zehra Jumabhoy - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Zehra Jumabhoy

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Dr Zehra Jumabhoy

Associate Lecturer
Zehra Jumabhoy

Dr Zehra Jumabhoy is an art critic and art historian specializing in contemporary South Asian art. Zehra received a Joint Honours BA in English Literature & Philosophy from Durham University (2001), a Masters in English Literature & Philosophy from Warwick University (2003) and a Masters in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art (2006), where she was awarded the Stavros S. Niarchos Trust Scholarship.

Subsequently, Zehra was a Steven and Elena Heinz Scholar at the Courtauld, where she completed her PhD on Indian art and nationalism (2017), supervised by Professor Julian Stallabrass. Titled, “Homi K. Bhabha’s Concept of National Identity and Contemporary Indian Art”, the project placed Bhabha’s ideas in conversation with those of Geeta Kapur, India’s pre-eminent art historian. Since the theoretical battle between Bhabha and Kapur was waged in the context of Anish Kapoor and Nalini Malani’s installations, the project encompassed India’s major artistic movements from the 1950s to the early 2000s. It discussed Modern Indian artists (e.g. The Progressive Artists’ Group); the 1980s’ Baroda School painters (e.g. Bhupen Khakhar & Gulammohammed Sheikh); prominent contemporary practitioners (e.g. Atul Dodiya, Sheela Gowda & Bharti Kher) and diasporic South Asian artists (e.g. Zarina Hashmi). Dealing with the development of the idea of the Indian nation, and its intersection with Modern and Contemporary Indian art, the thesis explored the interstices between art history, political science, postcolonial theory and continental philosophy.

Prior to her doctorate, Zehra lived and worked in Bombay, where she was editor of the Visual Art section for Time Out Mumbai and subsequently Assistant Editor at ART India, the country’s premier art journal. She has written for Frieze, London; ArtAsiaPacific, New York, and contributed to various publications on contemporary art by Phaidon. Her book, The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today, was published by Random House, London, in 2010. Zehra continues to be a regular reviewer for Artforum, the London Correspondent for ART India and to write for Art Review Asia. She co-organizes Contemporaneity in South Asian Art, a Seminar Series at The Courtauld’s Research Forum.


  • 2017/18, BA2 Constellations, Mapping Contemporary Asian Art/ Asian Art Histories
  • 2017/18, Summer School, Imagining the Mughals: Art and Politics from the Past to the Present in South Asia
  • 2016-, Sotheby’s Institute, Visiting Lecturer on the MA on Modern & Contemporary Asian Art

Research Interests

  • Modern and contemporary South Asian art
  • Modern and contemporary British art
  • Modern and contemporary Asian art
  • Ideas of national identity and theories of nationalism
  • Exploring notions of the modern and contemporary within ‘the idea of Asia’
  • Modernism
  • Postcolonial theory (both Subaltern Studies and the so-called Identity Politics of Homi Bhabha and Stuart Hall)
  • Cultural Theory
  • Continental Philosophy (especially Kant, Derrida, and their ideas of the Sublime)
  • Contemporary art and the British Empire
  • The Indo-Sino opium trade

Other professional activities

  • Co-organising with Professor Deborah Swallow, ‘Contemporaneity in South Asian Art’ at The Sackler Research Forum (The Courtauld Institute of Art), 2011-present
  • Guest curating an exhibition on Bombay’s Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) at the Asia Society Museum in New York, Fall 2018. The show is based on an aspect of Zehra’s doctoral research into the rise of modern art post Indian independence in 1947.
  • Regular contributor to Artforum International, New York, 2008-present
  • London correspondent for ART India magazine, Bombay, 2010-present



  • The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today, edited by Mark Holborn (Random House, London) 2010

Peer-reviewed journals

  • ‘Of Voyages and Vetiver: a conversation with Zarina Hashmi’, in N.Paradoxa, vol 33, January 2014, 26-31
  • ‘Betwixt and in-between: Reading Zarina Bhimji’, in N.Paradoxa, vol 31, January 2013, 88-95

Essays in exhibition catalogues and art publications

  • “Of Journeys Mega and Minute” for Upward Movement: N.S. Harsha, a publication to accompany the Indian artist’s solo show at Victoria Miro Mayfair, London, from 27 March to 25 April 2015. Published in February 2015.

  • “Now, Voyager”, the Lead Essay on notions of travel, national boundaries and diaspora in contemporary ‘Indian art for ART India magazine, Volume XVII Issue III Quarter III 2013.

  • “Dark Visions” for F.N. Souza: Black on Black, a publication to accompany an exhibition of the Modern Indian artist’s 1960s paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery, London, from 8 – 28 October 2013. Published in September 2013. (See: http://issuu.com/grosvenorgallery1/docs/06_fn_souza_online)

  • Essay on “Sculpture” for The Matter Within: Contemporary Art from India, a publication to accompany the survey show at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, from October 2011 to January 2012. Published in December 2012.

  • Essay on “Identity” for India: Art Now, a survey of contemporary Indian art at Arken Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, from August 2012 – January 2013. Published by Hatje Cantz in August 2012.

Contributions to books

  • ‘Vitamin P3: New Perspectives in Painting’, nominated and contributed texts on contemporary South Asian artists (eg JP Reji and Arpita Singh), edited by Tom Melick (Phaidon) 2016
  • ‘Vitamin D2: New Perspectives in Drawing’, nominated and contributed texts on contemporary South Asian artists (eg Manish Nai, Mithu Sen and Nikhil Chopra), edited by Matt Price (Phaidon) 2013
  • ‘Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting’, nominated and contributed texts on contemporary South Asian artists (eg Nalini Malani and NS Harsha), edited by Matt Price (Phaidon) 2011
  • contribution to Frieze Art Fair Yearbook 2011

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