Columbia University professor Vidya Dehejia to receive prestigious Art medal

Vidya Dehejia. PHOTO: Smithsonian Institution

Professor Emerita of Columbia University Vidya Dehejia, who was named recipient of the 2023 Freer Medal by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Art back in January, was scheduled to be formally presented with the prestigious award April 28, 2023. However, that event has been postponed to a later date, Smithsonian said.

At a ceremony held at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Dehejia, the Barbara Stoler Miller Professor Emerita of Indian and South Asian Art at Columbia University, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Medal. The other 2023 recipient who will receive the award in October was Gulru Necipoglu, the Aga Khan Professor and Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University’s History of Art and Architecture Department.

They are being recognized for their contributions to the understanding of the arts of Asia throughout their career, the Smithsonian said. Since its inception in 1956, only 14 individuals have been recognized for the award which is named after museum founder, Charles Lang Freer.

“We are pleased to recognize the enormous contributions that these scholars have made to their fields,” Chase F. Robinson, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Asian Art, is quoted saying in the press release.

“Vidya Dehejia’s groundbreaking research spans millennia, from ancient Buddhist rock-cut architecture to colonial-period photography,” the Smithsonian noted.

Her work on wide-ranging topics, including visual narrative, gender, the meaning of the unfinished, medieval yogini temples, Chola bronzes, and artistic production during the British Raj.

She is credited with staking out new fields of inquiry for the interpretation of Asian art, while her translations of Tamil poetry and Sanskrit texts have set a standard for art historical rigor, the Smithsonian said.

At Columbia University, as professor of South Asian art history from 1982 to 2003 and as the Barbara Stoler Miller Professor of Indian and South Asian Art, “Dehejia taught and shaped a generation of scholars,” the press release said.

She also served as the director for the South Asian Institute at Columbia University (2003–2008) and was the acting director, deputy director, chief curator, and curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, now the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art (1994–2002), where she was responsible for several highly innovative exhibitions and scholarly catalogues.

Dehejia holds a bachelor of arts, a master of arts, and a doctorate degree from Cambridge University and a bachelor of arts degree from St. Xavier’s College, Bombay University.

Among her many publications are, Devi, The Great Goddess: Female Divinity in South Asian Art (1999), India through the Lens: Photography 1840–1911 (2000), The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India (2002), etc.

Apart from numerous other awards, Dehejia received the Padma Bhushan Award in 2012 from the president of India for exceptional contributions to art and education as well as a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship from 2009 to 2012. She was the 65th A.W. Mellon Lecturer in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art in 2016.




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