The Passing of Dr Kavita Singh

Kavita Singh looks at the camera

A message from Mark Ledbury, Director, The Power Institute and Olivier Krischer, Convenor, Sydney Asian Art Series 2023


A few months ago, the brilliant, engaged and witty art historian Kavita Singh gave a sparkling and provocative talk in our Sydney Asian Art Series. Her lecture was a tour de force, demonstrating her brilliance and generosity as an archival and historical scholar but also her feisty, philosophical bent and her acuity in matters of museology, and cultural and social politics.  

It was therefore all the more shocking and saddening to hear of Kavita’s death from cancer on 30 July 2023. We have lost one of the pioneers of engaged, post-colonial art history, and a scholar and writer of enormous range and depth. Kavita’s work on Deccan culture, on Mughal Painting and especially on Museums and their dilemmas in the colonial and post-colonial worlds made her a field leader and inspiration to generations of younger scholars.  

Mark personally remembers a series of events and collaborations he was involved with during Kavita’s fellowship periods at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, where he was struck by both her razor-sharp analyses of objects and their uses, her extensive knowledge of the many worlds of South Asia, and her deep well of understanding of cross-cultural complexity. She made very good jokes, too, and it was an honour to be the butt of some of them!  

Texts that Kavita authored and co-authored (she was a wonderful collaborator) have made a profound impact on the fields of art history, museum studies and material culture, and in many respects the profound shifts in these fields are a testament to a movement that she helped to spearhead.  

Many of us will miss her scholarship, warmth and humour, and our condolences go out to all her family, close friends and loved ones.