Dr Zehra Jumabhoy is an art historian specialising in Modern & 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.
Lecturer, Courtauld Study Day, Imperial Visions: Art, Architecture & the British Empire in India (28 Nov 2020). See/Register at
- 2020/21, Lecturing on the “India Module” for the Postgraduate Diploma in Asian art, S.O.A.S, University of London, UK
- 2019/2020, Course Leader & Visiting Faculty for “BNU-SVAD Global Classroom”, for the Online Course What’s in a Name? Art, Politics & Identity in Contemporary South Asia, Beaconhouse National University (BNU), Lahore, Pakistan
- 2019/20, Course Leading Prof Julian Stallabrass’ MA Special Option, Documentary Reborn: Photography, Film and Video in Global Contemporary Art, with Dr Nayun Jang (while Stallabrass was on sabbatical), The Courtauld
- 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
- 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)
- 2016-ongoing, Visiting Lecturer for the MAs on Modern & Contemporary Asian Art and Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London
- Modern and Contemporary South Asian, Asian and British art
- ‘Black’ Art & Modernism
- South Asian History
- Postcolonial Theory
- Art, Empire & Diaspora
- Continental Philosophy & Aesthetics
- New Media Art & Politics
Courtauld-related Research activities
- Co-organised with Professor Deborah Swallow the Seminar Series Contemporaneity in South Asian Art at The Courtauld Research Forum, 2011-2019. Collaborative events included the Courtauld-Art Forum Panel on Art Writing at the India Art Fair, Delhi (2015); the Conference, The Politics of Craft, co-hosted with the V & A Museum and King’s College London’s India Institute (2015) and the 2-Day Oxford-Courtauld Conference, The Art of Independence: Visions of the Past & Future in India & Pakistan (2017). Watch The Art of Independence at https://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/event/visions-of-the-future-in-india-and-pakistan
- Co-curator for Imperial Subjects: (Post)Colonial Conversations between South Asia and Wales exhibition at the Glynn Vivian museum, Swansea, in 2022. The Imperial Subjects Seminar Series won a £12,000 bursary from the British Art Network (Tate & Paul Mellon Centre for British Art) for 2020. Seminars were adapted Online for COVID. Watch at: https://www.glynnvivian.co.uk/whats-on/imperial-subjects-seminar-series/
- Curated a site-specific commission by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare for The Old Parliament House/ Arts House Museum in Singapore. The immersive installation, Justice For All was sponsored by the National Arts Council & the Asian Art Institutum, Singapore to coincide with the Singapore Biennale and Singapore Art Week (13 – 31 January 2020)
- 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 was sourced from collections in India, the US, UK and the UAE and garnered international coverage (14 September 2018-20 January 2019) Review at 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
- “Decolonising Art History”, Art History, Vol 43, Issue 1, Feb 2020, p.23-25 (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8365.12490)
- “The Progressive Artists’ Group & The ‘Idea of India’: Zehra Jumabhoy in Conversation with Karin Zitzewitzand Sonal Khullar”, Borderlines CSSAAME, Columbia University Press, 9 October 2019. Read at https://www.borderlines-cssaame.org/posts/2019/10/7/the-progressive-artists-group-amp-the-idea-of-indianbsp
- “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
- “Tilting at Thresholds: P/partition in South Asian Art & Exhibitions”, Harvard University’s publication on South Asian Partitions. Publisher: Oxford University Press, Oxford & New Delhi. (Forthcoming 2021)
- “Making Britain Browner”, Midnight’s Family: 70 years of Indian Artists in Britain, Exhi. Cat., Ben Uri Research Unit, London, 2020, pp. 6-11
- “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)
- 3-Part Talk Series Mind the Dash: The Modern/Contemporary & In-Between in Indian Art. Collaboration between Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai, India & Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, USA (11, 18, 25 September 2020) (Watch at http://jnaf.org/events/)
- Lecture on “Bling, Batik and Blackness: Inauthentic Selves in ‘British’ Art” at Dr Matt Lodder’s SPAH Seminar Series, Essex University, Essex (5 December 2019)
- 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 2020 & 2019); British Library, London (October 2019 & 2018) and Asia Society, New York (May 2018) (Watch New York iteration, with 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)