Rummana Hussain

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Rummana Habibullah Hussain
Born 1952
Died 1999
Occupation Conceptual artist

Rummana Hussain (1952–1999) was an artist and one of the pioneers of conceptual art, installation, and politically-engaged art in India.[1]


Hussain was born in Bangalore, India to a prominent Muslim family. She was the sister of Wajahat Habibullah and wife of Ishaat Hussain. For much of her career, Hussain worked in oil and watercolor. She created largely allegorical figurative paintings.[2][3] Her art underwent a significant transformation, however, after the events of 1992 in Ayodhya, India – a conflict between Hindu and Muslim communities which led to the destruction of the Babri Masjid.[4] In response to the communal violence of the events, as well as to her sudden exposure to ideological assault as a Muslim, Hussain’s art not only became more explicitly political as well as personal, but it moved away from traditional media towards installation, video, photography, and mixed-media work.[5] Throughout the 1990s, Hussain participated in exhibitions and events organized by SAHMAT, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, alongside other politically-conscious artists and performers.[6] She was invited to be an artist-in-residence at Art in General in New York City, in 1998, just a year before she died, at age 47, after a battle with cancer.[7] Hussain’s work has been on view in exhibitions and art fairs worldwide, including at Tate Modern, in London, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), in Mumbai, Smart Museum, in Chicago, the 3rd Asia Pacific Triennial, in Brisbane, Australia, and at Talwar Gallery, which represents the estate of the artist.[8] Her work is included in the permanent collection of the Queensland Art Gallery, in Queensland, Australia.


Hussain is cited as one of the foremost leaders in the development of conceptual art in India, and is credited with bringing the possibilities and merits of diverse media to critical and popular attention.[9] Despite her association with conceptual art, however, Hussain’s work remains grounded in the physical using, rather than ignoring, the "sensuousness" of the various materials that make up her installations.[10] Critics often reference this emphasis on materiality in the discussion of the social, specifically feminist, concerns of much of Hussain’s oeuvre which acknowledges female corporeality as its starting point.[11] Several of her video and performance-based pieces, for example, center on Hussain’s own body – a tactic that positions her work at a unique juncture between the political and personal, the public and private. According to art historian Geeta Kapur, Hussain "makes [female and religious identity] matter in a conscious and dialectical way…she not only pitches her identity for display, she [also] constructs a public space for debate."[12] Hussain's work both establishes an effective relationship with the viewer, and challenges him or her to act.

Notable exhibitions[edit]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

Group exhibitions[edit]

Lowe Art Museum, Miami, FL, US
Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C., US
The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, NJ, US
Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, US
National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai, India
Museum of Contemporary Art (MARCO), Monterrey, Mexico
Tamayo Museum, Mexico City, Mexico
Asia Society, New York, NY, US

Performance and video[edit]

  • 1998

Art in General, Residency, New York, NY, US

  • 1997

Artspace Studios, Residency, Bristol, UK

  • 1996

Ministry of Human Resource Development Senior Fellowship (Visual Arts), New Delhi, India


  1. ^ Kalra, Vandana (12 October 2010). "Musings from the Past". The Indian Express.
  2. ^ Cotter, Holland (18 July 1999). "Rummana Hussain, 47, Indian Conceptual Artist". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Mehta, Anupa (30 March 1994). "An Inward Journey". The Independent.
  4. ^ "Ten memorable exhibitions from last year". ArtAsiaPacific. January 2013.
  5. ^ Hoskote, Ranjit (17 April 1994). "The Metaphor Survives". The Times of India.
  6. ^ Kapoor, Kamala (1997). "Home Nation". Art Asia Pacific.
  7. ^ Cotter, Holland (16 October 1998). "Rummana Hussain: In Order to Join". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "Rummana Hussain". Talwar Gallery. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  9. ^ Mehta, Anupa (30 March 1994). "What's a bicycle doing in the art gallery?". The Independent.
  10. ^ Shahani, Roshan (1994). Ways of Seeing in ’94.
  11. ^ Iyengar, Vishwapriya L (December 2009). "Looking for meaning in myriad". The Asian Age.
  12. ^ Kapur, Geeta (January–April 1999). "The Courage of being Rummana". Art India.
  13. ^ "Rummana Hussain – Breaking Skin press release". Talwar Gallery. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Rummana Hussain press release". Talwar Gallery. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Rummana Hussain – Fortitude from Fragments press release". Talwar Gallery. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  16. ^ "Rummana Hussain". Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  17. ^ "The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989". University of Chicago. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  18. ^ "Excerpts from Diary Pages press release". Talwar Gallery. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  19. ^ "IMAGE MUSIC TEXT 20 years of SAHMAT Exhibition". Retrieved 1 January 2014.

External links[edit]