Iftikhar Dadi


On his book Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia

Cover Interview of March 25, 2012


It is now common to understand contemporary art (post 1990) as global.  My study argues that artists’ concerns since the early twentieth century were inextricably transnational.  I locate the question of globalization and art much earlier than usually accepted.

The book also discusses the passage of modernism into contemporary practice from the 1970s on—by examining two artists in some detail, Rasheed Araeen and Naiza Khan.  The seriousness of their work relays and transforms modernism’s abiding concerns with subjectivity and tradition into the present. In this sense, both artists are exemplary of critical contemporary art practice that needs to be understood in multiple and overlapping, yet specific historical trajectories, rather than being located simply in an ahistorical, homogenized and spectacular postmodern globalist realm of late finance capitalism.

While artists do participate in broader contemporary dilemmas, a proper accounting of their work still requires a deeper engagement with their specific trajectories.  This has remained a challenge for scholarly understanding of much modern and contemporary global art in which historical and intellectual context remains largely unexplored, and which this book hopes to partially remedy by tracing one significant thread in its formation.