Zehra Jumabhoy - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Zehra Jumabhoy

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Dr Zehra Jumabhoy

Associate Lecturer

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 PhD thesis 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, Art Review Asia, London and contributed to various publications on contemporary art by Phaidon. Zehra continues to be a regular reviewer for Artforum International, New York, and the London Correspondent for ART India.


  • 2018/19, Course Leader, BA3 Special Option, After Midnight: Contemporary Art in Postcolonial India, Pakistan & Bangladesh (The Courtauld)
  • 2018-ongoing, Visiting Lecturer, Postgraduate Diploma on Art & Theory, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (Old V & A), Mumbai
  • 2016-ongoing, Visiting Lecturer for MA on Modern & Contemporary Asian Art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London
  • 2017-ongoing, Lecturer, The Courtauld’s Summer School, Imagining the Mughals: Art and Politics from the Past to the Present in South Asia (co-designed & co-taught with Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi)

Research Interests

  • Modern and Contemporary South Asian, Asian and British art
  • Nationalism
  • ‘Black’ Art & Modernism
  • South Asian History
  • Postcolonial Theory
  • Art, Empire & Diaspora
  • Continental Philosophy & Aesthetics
  • New Media Art & Politics

Courtauld-related Research activities

  • Co-organising with Professor Deborah Swallow, ‘Contemporaneity in South Asian Art’ at The Sackler Research Forum, 2011-present

Curatorial Activities

  • Co-curator for the South Asia-Wales project to take place at the Glynn Vivian museum, Swansea, in 2021. The exhibition will be accompanied by an academic publication, co-edited by Daniel G. Williams, professor of English Literature, Swansea University, Wales.
  • Guest curated the first international exhibition dedicated to Bombay’s Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG), at the Asia Society Museum in New York. The Progressive Revolution: Modern art for a New India, included over 80 artworks from collections in India, the US, UK and the UAE. (14 September 2018-20 January 2019) (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/26/arts/design/the-progressive-revolution-review-asia-society.html)

Other professional activities

  • Consultant for the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts (since 2018)
  • Regular contributor to Artforum International, New York (since 2008)
  • London Correspondent for ART India magazine, Bombay (since 2010)
  • 2018 Evaluator for The Andy Warhol Foundation’s Arts Writers Grant Program.



  • Zehra Jumabhoy & Tan Boon Hui (Eds.), The Progressive Revolution: A Modern Art for a New India, Prestel, New York, 2018
  • F.N. Souza: Black on Black, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 2013. A publication accompanying an exhibition of Souza’s 1960s ‘black paintings’ at Grosvenor Gallery, London, from 8 to 28 October 2013.
  • Upward Movement: N.S. Harsha, Victoria Miro, London, 2015. A publication to accompany the Indian artist’s solo show at Victoria Miro Mayfair, London, from 27 March to 25 April 2015.
  • The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today, Mark Holborn (Ed.), Random House, London, 2010

Peer-reviewed journals

  • “Of Voyages and Vetiver: a conversation with Zarina Hashmi”, in N.Paradoxa, vol 33, January 2014, pp 26-31
  • “Betwixt and in-between: Reading Zarina Bhimji”, in N.Paradoxa, vol 31, January 2013, pp 88-95
  •  “Now, Voyager”, Lead Essay on notions of travel, borders and diaspora in contemporary Indian art for ART India journal, Volume XVII Issue III Quarter III 2013

Chapters in Books

  • “Lines that Divide”, Harvard University’s publication on South Asian Partitions (Forthcoming 2020)
  • “The Look of Love: Desire and the National Imagination”, Hemen Mazumdar: The Last Romantic, SMU, Singapore, 2019. Including essays by Partha Mitter and Sona Datta.
  • “Sculpture”, 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.
  • “Identity”, 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 Art Books (Selection)

  • ‘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

Public Lectures & Panels (Highlights)

  • Lecture “Art & Politics: Religious Pasts in South Asia” at John Cabot University, Rome (17 `April 2019)
  • Panels at Lahore Literary Festivals, including at Alhamra Arts Centre, Lahore (February 2019); British Library, London (October 2018) and Asia Society, New York (May 2018) (Watch New York iteration, with Mehreen Chida-Razvi & artist Shahzia Sikander, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb-foInitAQ)
  • Panel on “Art in Bombay, Bengal and Baroda” at Singapore Management University, Singapore (20 January 2019) (Watch at https://youtu.be/infzZRCJvjQ)
  • Lecture “A Place for People? Secular Nationalism in Modern and Contemporary Indian Art”, at Silver Centre, New York University, New York (23 October 2018)
  • Panel “The Progressive Artists’ Group: Creating a Modern India” at Asia Society, New York (25 October 2018). This was part of a Conference, co-organised with Professors Gauri Viswanathan & Vishakha Desai from Columbia University, New York on “The Progressive Genealogy: Art & Culture in Modern India”, New York (20 October 2018) (Watch at https://asiasociety.org/new-york/symposium-recap-progressive-genealogy )
  • Curatorial Lecture “Midnight & The Moderns” at Asia Society, New York (17 September 2018) (Watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34GIsiP2w6c)

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