Associate Professor Chaitanya Sambrani

MA (Fine): MSU, Baroda; PhD : ANU
Convenor, Higher Degrees by Research, School of Art and Design; Associate Professor, Centre for Art History and Art Theory
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Art History 190102
  • Asian History 210302
  • Art Theory And Criticism 1901
  • Postcolonial Studies 200211
  • Curatorial And Related Studies 2102

Research interests

Modern and Contemporary Art in Asia

Art and nationhood; art practice and belonging

Transnational and cosmopolitan histories of art 

Contemporary art's relationships with traditional practice

Art, architecture and urbanity


Chaitanya Sambrani is an art historian and curator interested in and modern and contemporary art in Asia, especially in relation to tradition, marginality and politics. Chaitanya teaches courses on modernism and contemporary art in India, Indonesia, China and Japan, and on art, design and urbanity. His major curatorial projects include Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India (shown at museums in Australia, USA, Mexico and India over 2004-07); Place.Time.Play: Contemporary Art from the West Heavens to the Middle Kingdom (the first contemporary art exchange between artists from China and India, Shanghai, 2010); To Let the World In: narrative and beyond in contemporary Indian art (Art Chennai Festival of Art, 2012) and All that Arises, a mid-career survey of the work of Lao-Australian artist Savanhdary Vongpoothorn (Canberra, 2019). He is principal author and editor of At Home in the World: the Art and Life of Gulammohammed Sheikh (2019), and is currently working on a monograph on the Riding Rocinante project of Tushar Joag (1966-2018) addressing water rights and futures across India and China. He leads the interdisciplinary digital project The "Wonders" that Basham Saw, analysing the visual archives of Professor A.L. Basham, in collaboration with colleagues at ANU, University of Sydney, the National Gallery of Australia, National University of Singapore and the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.

As Convenor of Higher Degrees by Research, Chaitanya oversees the MPhil and PhD program at the School of Art and Design. He is also the Convenor of the research hub Asia: Innovation and Transformation at the  School. A member of the Board of the ANU's South Asia Research Institute (SARI), he served as the Instutites's Deputy Director in 2018-19. In 2019, he was nominated Honorary Professor at the Fakultas Seni Rupa dan Desain (Faculty of Visual Art and Design) at the Institut Teknologi Bandung, and in 2022 was awarded 'Ganesa Widya Jasa Utama' by that institution. He serves as Curatorial Adviser, Asian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and is a Member of the Committee of Management of the Asian Arts Society of Australia (TAASA). Chaitanya co-founded the Australasian Network for Asian Art (, and was a member of the Network's inaugural Coordinating Group (2020-2023). 



Researcher's projects

2020-2022: Curatorial Advisor for the exhibitions Elemental and Correspondence; Asian galleries, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 

2020-2022: Riding Rocinante: Tushar Joag's Ride to Realisation (monograph, SSAF-Tulika Books, New Delhi)

2019-2023: Ways of Belonging:  Art, nation and world in India and Indonesia (monograph, TBC)

2018-2023: The "Wonders" that Basham Saw:  digitising and analysing the visual archive of Professor A.L. Basham (in collaboration with ANU Archives, National Gallery of Australia, Oxford University and National University of Singapore)

2017-19: All that Arises, 25-year survey exhibition of the work of Lao-Australian artist Savanhdary Vongpoothorn, Drill Hall Gallery, ANU 

2012-18: At Home in the World: the Art and Life of Gulammohammed Sheikh (New Delhi: Tulika Books in association with Vadehra Art Gallery, 2019).

2012-13: Curatorial Adviser, Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne.

2011-13: Screenwriter, To Let the World In, vols. 1 and 2. Documentary film on contemporary art, dir. Avijit Mukul Kishore.

2011-12: Curator, To Let the World In: Narrative and Beyond in Contemporary Indian Art,  Art Chennai festival of contemporary art.

2009-10: Curator, Place.Time.Play: Contemporary Art from the West Heavens to the Middle Kingdom (exhibition of contemporary art from India and China), West Heavens, Shanghai.

2004-07: Curator, Edge of Desire: Recent art in India. Co-organised by Asia Society Museum, New York and Art Gallery of Western Australia. Exhibition tour: Perth, New York, Monterrey, Mexico City, Berkeley, New Delhi and Mumbai.

Available student projects

Chaitanya welcomes discussion on prospective student projects addressing modern and contemporary art practice in Asia.

Current student projects


Gillian Daniel (Art History and Curatorship) "Topographic Imaginaries: Envisioning the Natural World in the Straits Settlements" (Chair and Primary Supervisor)

Si Ming Pang (Art History and Curatorship) "Identity and Belonging in Nanyang Art" (Chair and Primary Supervisor)

Nasibeh Ghasri Khouzani (Art History and Ceramics), Iranian expatriate artists and questions of self-censorship (Chair and Primary Supervisor)

Soo-Min Shim (Art History and Curatorship) "Borders and Belonging: New visions of relationality and community by contemporary Korean artists in Australia and New Zealand" (Chair and Primary Supervisor)

Lucie Folan (Art History and Curatorship), "Manifestations of Merit: tracing the history, creation and meaning of Jain sacred-site images (tirtha pata)" (Chair and Primary Supervisor)

Shanti Shea-An (Painting), “Reading/Painting: A Practice-led Inquiry into Textuality, Legibility, and Translation in Contemporary Painting” (Associate Supervisor)

Lucy Irvine (Sculpture and Spatial Practice), "Emergent Knowledge Practices: Interweaving new spatial, material and relational strategies for pedadogical and interdisciplinary research" (Chair of Panel)

Janet Turpie-Johnstone (Printmedia/painting), "Bunjil Patterns" the mess of the past and future in Country now" (Associate Supervisor)




Past student projects



Jeremy Lepisto (Sculpture and Spatial Practice, 2023),"Containers of Consequence: The shipping container and its unintended deliveries" (Chair and Primary Supervisor)

Bec Bigg-Wither (Photomedia, 2023), "Air to Ground: Apollo 11's Fiftieth Anniversary"

Francis Kenna (Art Theory and Printmedia, 2021), "Feeling Spaces: grounding the body through architectural atmosphere".

Stephanie Alexandria Parker (Photomedia, 2021), "The Role of Rhythmical Pattern Body Movement in ANZAC Commemoration and Site Connotations".

Phil Page (Painting, 2018) 'The Form and Content of European Cities as Paintings'.

Brian Corr (Sculpture, 2018) "Contemplative Space in Japanese Architecture"

Safrizal Shahir (Printmedia, 2017), "Gravestones as mirror: a visual discourse on Batu Aceh"

Fiona Peng Qian (Ceramics, 2016) "A Site for Hybrid Practice: Between Traditional Culture and Contemporary Ceramic Art"

Ian Jones (Art Theory and Ceramics, 2016), "Wabi-cha and the Perception of Beauty in Japanese Ceramics"

Tim Thomas (Photomedia, 2014) "The Articulation and Rearticulation of Space in the Photographic Paradigm"

Ursula Frederick (Art Theory and Photomedia, 2014), Aesthetics of Car Cultures in Australia and USA

Christina Clarke (Art Theory and Gold and Silver, 2012) "The manufacture of Minoan vessels: theory and practice"

Robert Guth (Photomedia, 2012) "Engaging audiences to value and invest in participatory art practice through reciprocal and relational interactions"

Nicola Dickson (Painting, 2010) "Wonderlust: the influence of natural history illustration and ornamentation on perceptions of the exotic in Australia"

Johanna Hoyne (Sculpture, 2009) "Commitment, Devotion and Belonging in the World with particular reference to the work of two Indian contemporary artists"




Heather Burness (Printmedia)


M.A. (Advanced):

Jing Zhang, "Postsocialist Urban Aesthetics in the Pearl River Delta Region 1980s and 1990s", 2020.

Su Yilmaz, "Reclamations of Power and Space Through the Abject: Franko B and Rashid Rana" 2019.

Bianca Hill, "Woman as Visual Fiction: national identity in post-independence Myanmar" 2017. Awarded University Medal.

Chiei Ishida: "Chinese and Taiwanese Performance art of the 1980s", 2014.

Haolan Liang: "Two Traditions Engage: Contemporary Chinese Ink and Wash Painting of Zhao Xiaoping", 2014.


Seren Heyman-Griffiths, "The world as we make it: Material culture, geopolitics and constructions of Asia at the National Gallery of Australia", 2021.

Anna Stewart-Yates, "'Modernist Japanese-ness: A Geneaology of Intercultural Design Exchange, 2021

Chelsie Baldwin, "The Ideology of Power: Appropriation of Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit Icoonography in Indonesia", 2021

Jamie Alexander, "Redo/ubling Materialist Feminism, Rethinking Southeast Asian Contemporary Art History", 2020.

Caitlin Hughes, "Dismantling the Map: Narrative, intervention and the play-response in the art of Tintin Wulia, Tita Salina and Irwan Ahmett", 2020. Awarded Janet Wilkie Prize for Art History.

Hannah Tyler, "Eyes and Cities: Kaldor Public Art Projects and the Urban Landscapes of Sydney and Melbourne" (2019)

Bianca Winataputri, "Generasi Dilema: Consciousness of the Global South in the Work of Eko Nugroho and Jompet Kuswidananto" (2017). Awarded Janet Wilkie Prize for Art History.

Janis Lejins "The Art of Connection: rethinking art in a networked world" (2016)

Nagesh Seethiah "Visualising otherness in Contemporary Australian Art" (2016)

Ellen Wignell "Producing Ai Weiwei: Life, Politics and Art (2014)

Lucy Caldwell Appropriation and globalisation in the work of migrant artists in Australia (2014)

Miriam Kelly Race, gender and globalisation in the work of Mella Jaarsma and Sharmila Samant (2008) Awarded University Medal






Return to top

Updated:  15 July 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers