Jyotindra Jain is no stranger to the museum world, having served as Senior Director of the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum in Delhi between 1984 and 2001. He developed this museum from the ground up, promoting a post-colonial museum model in which living traditions of Indian folk art and crafts were foregrounded, and initiating a residency program. Jain spent his time at the Gardner in April 2003 writing and working on the introduction to the catalogue Indian Popular Culture: The Conquest of the World as Picture (2004) that was published in connection with an exhibition he curated for the House of World Cultures in Berlin and the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in New Delhi.
Jain is an innovator in the field of museology and has conducted extensive ethnographic field research on the folk and tribal religions of Western India. He studied Cultural Anthropology, Indian Studies, and Ancient Indian History in Mumbai and in Vienna. He investigated Indian textiles in the Gardner Museum collection (later providing the Museum with his own research findings and articles pertaining to these little-studied textiles), and spent time in the Archives looking through Isabella Stewart Gardner's travel scrapbooks, especially those documenting her trip to Asia in 1883–84. In May 2003, Jain gave an Eye of the Beholder lecture with photographer and 2002 Artist-in-Residence Dayanita Singh titled Visual Popular Culture in India. The two friends discussed examples of how photographic images are taken and manipulated as an instrument of cultural force in modern India.
Jain is co-editor of Marg Publications in Mumbai and the author of multiple books, including Temple Tents for Goddesses in Gujarat, India (with Eberhard Fischer and Haku Shah, 2014); Clemente: Made in India (2011); and Other Masters: Five Contemporary Folk and Tribal Artists of India (1998). He has been an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at Heidelberg University, a Homi Bhabha Fellow, and a Visiting Professor at the Center for the Study for World Religions at Harvard University. Presently affiliated with the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, he is researching the Pictorialist Movement in Mumbai from 1890–1940. He was awarded the Prince Claus Award for his scholarly achievements. Recently, Jain curated Jangarh Singh Shyam: A Conjuror’s Archive, a milestone retrospective of this tribal artist’s works, at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi.