Swapnaa Tamhane: Mobile Palace
Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
March 12 to August 1, 2022
curated by Dr. Deepali Dewan

Press Release:

TORONTO, ON, February 8, 2022 - This spring, ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) invites visitors to experience a series of immersive textile installations created by contemporary artist Swapnaa Tamhane, on display from March 12 to August 1, 2022. Organized by ROM, "Swapnaa Tamhane: Mobile Palace" is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition and brings together layered fabric compositions that challenge traditional hierarchies between art and craft. 


“ROM is committed to supporting artists who are shifting the global conversation on how art is made and expressed and to opening the door to new and diverse voices,” says Josh Basseches, ROM Director & CEO. “This exhibition of Swapnaa Tamhane’s large, immersive textile works of art offers audiences an opportunity to discover the transformative practices of this emerging artist."  

At the heart of the exhibition are three cotton cloth installations composed of heavily patterned block-printed fabric. Tamhane aims to re-imagine notions of decoration and pattern in compositions that echo tent forms used in India. In this presentation, ROM invites visitors to move around, in, and through Tamhane’s sweeping canopies to explore ideas of gathering and experiences of spaces. 

“These works need to be experienced in person as they create spaces that inspire and uplift on a felt level,” says Deepali Dewan, ROM’s Dan Mishra Curator of South Asian Art & Culture and the curator of Mobile Palace. "They are a part of Tamhane's larger practice of making a mark as an act of resistance. The impression of a woodblock onto a textile surface, the clinging of dye to mordant, thread piercing through fabric, line drawn on paper – all of these are marks that disrupt one sense of order and make a claim for a different one. In this way, pattern has never been simply about decoration. It is about how making a mark can shape new ways of seeing, thinking and being in the world."  

Tamhane draws on India’s rich textile traditions, approaching these techniques through a contemporary lens. Inspired by Mughal and Ottoman tents used as mobile palaces, and with motifs that reference the modernist architecture of Le Corbusier’s Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners' Association House (ATMA), the exhibition also features wooden printing blocks, works on handmade paper and a new film showcasing how the pieces were created. Tamhane worked in a collaborative creative process with artists based in Gujarat, India, including dyer and printer Salemamad Khatri, wood block carver Mukesh Prajapati, and the Qasab-Kutch Craftswomen embroidery collective. Tamhane designed motifs, appliqué and beading to create punctuated interruptions in the repetition of patterns, asking us to consider the spaces in-between. 

“These artworks propose new modes of collaborating with artisans and explore the possibilities of ornamentation to tell a larger story,” says artist Swapnaa Tamhane. “My process and these works resist how hierarchies of art, craft, and design were determined by colonial ideas.”  

The exhibition is generously supported by Lead Exhibition Patron Dan Mishra with additional support from the Canada Council for the Arts. The Dan Mishra South Asia Initiative, launched in 2017, established a newly endowed curatorial position and sustainable funding for exhibitions, public engagement, research, and learning activities that support and enhance the ROM’s commitment to South Asian art and culture.  

Key works in the exhibition were created through the support of ROM’s IARTS Textiles of India grant, for which Tamhane was selected as the 2019-20 recipient. The grant was established in honour of the late Arti Chandaria to celebrate the splendour and influence of Indian textile arts. On display on ROM’s Level 3, Third Floor Centre Block, Swapnaa Tamhane: Mobile Palace is included with ROM general admission.

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with artists Birender Yadav, Sohrab Hura,
Rajyashri Goody, Sajan Mani, and Prajakta Potnis

November 3, 2021 to January 22, 2022

curated by Swapnaa Tamhane

Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery

Concordia University, Montreal

Public Programs


Monday, January 10, 2022, 12:30 PM EST
In English
Free, online

Focusing on the emergence of Dalit literature and poetry, artists Sajan Mani, Rajyashri Goody, and Birender Yadav, along with curator Swapnaa Tamhane, will delve into the histories of access to literacy, the life and work of early activists such as Poykayil Appachan and Jyotirao Phule, and the poetry issued from the Dalit Panther movement. Further, this conversation will expand on the implications of caste as violence in consideration of histories of labour and the colonial imprint.


Friday, November 12, 2021, 12:30 PM EST
In English
Free, online

Join artists Sohrab Hura and Prajakta Potnis and curator Swapnaa Tamhane for a conversation on the disembodied and overburdened state of the body in the Indian social and political landscape. Considering the respective role of photography and painting in Hura’s and Potnis’s work, this exchange will examine image-making, as well as the production and circulation of “fake” images through Whatsapp. With Potnis accounting for the traces left by labour within the body and Hura primarily documenting people who live along India’s coastline, the body in this conversation will be approached as a protagonist, a membrane, and a vessel for politics.

IARTS Textiles of India Grant recipient:

2019-2020 Swapnaa Tamhane

We are pleased to announce that the recipient of the IARTS Textiles of India Grant 2019-2020 is SWAPNAA TAMHANE. Her project, titled “Mobile Palace,” will create a large-scale structure (a shamiana or tent) that brings together influences from the Mughal and Ottoman period, Modernist architectural aesthetic and theory, the textile arts of Kutch, Gujarat (wood block carving, Ajrakh block-printing), hand-spun cotton (khadi), and the politics and history of migration. The outcome will be both an artwork and a public gathering space.