Nick Barnard, Curator, South and Southeast Asia Collections, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
The Jain religion has produced a distinctive art tradition of great antiquity and cultural significance. Over two centuries the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and its institutional forebears amassed a small but significant collection of Jain art including sculptures, illustrated manuscripts and cosmological paintings, with objects dating from the 2nd century to the present day. Jain sculpture collected by Colin Mackenzie was among the early acquisitions of the nascent India Museum established at the beginning of the 19th century by the East India Company in its London headquarters. On the demise of that Museum in 1879 the majority of its objects were transferred to the South Kensington Museum, which later became the V&A. The scope of the Jain collection expanded greatly over time and has most recently been augmented by two contemporary paintings created by the artist Shanti Panchal in response to Jain religious ceremonies. Changing collecting policies reflect the developing attitudes and approaches in Britain and internationally to South Asian art while opportunities for display of the collection have been influenced by larger political currents. In recent decades, work with the UK Jain community has provided new opportunities for the display and study of this remarkable art tradition.