The Bengaluru Museum of Art and Photography (formerly Bangalore), South India’s first major private art museum, will open to the public in December after a pandemic-induced delay. The institution will try to fill a void in a country where many museums are in a “state of disrepair”, according to India today.
The new museum, based in the country’s booming “silicon valley”, is
housed in a 44,000 square foot building designed by the Bengaluru-based company
Mathew & Ghosh Architects. Its ambitious program of exhibitions
understand Visible/Invisible which explores the representation of women in
art history of the Indian subcontinent. The painting Woman in the Blue Room by KG Subramanyan (1981) and the hemp sculpture by Mrinalini Mukherjee Naag (1986) are among the works included.
American artist Chitra Ganesh will present a photographic series entitled
Hidden trails (2007). “My work of installation, photography and sculpture
is inspired in particular by mythological stories, current
imperialism and queer politics, old Bollywood images and songs, lyrics
poetry and erased moments in South Asian history,” she says in a
previous online declaration.
Another show, Time and again, is the first major retrospective of
photography by Indian artist Jyoti Bhatt. The Conservatives will shoot
from the MAP photographic archive, containing 1,000 prints of Bhatt and
60,000 negatives. Another exhibition will be dedicated to the artist LN
Tallur, born in the state of Karnataka.
Philanthropist and businessman Abhishek Poddar donated the
the bulk of its collection to form most of the MAP’s 60,000 works of art
and artifacts that tell the story of Indian culture spanning from
12th century to the present day. It contains sections on photography, folk art,
textiles and design as well as contemporary and 20th century art,
including works by great South Asian modernists such as Tyeb Mehta.
Poddar said in a statement: “I think we need the MAP Museum of Art &
Photography now because South Asian cultures represent the cultures of almost a quarter of the world’s population and yet their stories have not been told.
In a recent press briefing, Poddar said the new institution will “push the needle” for museums in India where the culture budget was slashed last year by 15% to INR 26.8 billion ( £284 million). Poddar’s LinkedIn page describes him as the “director of Sua Explosives & Accessories and managing director of Matheson Bosanquet, an 80-year-old company with activities in the production, trade and export of tea”.
The museum land was purchased with a donation from the
Poddar family; the building is financed in part by a donation from the
Poddar family and group of philanthropists including Kiran Mazumdar
Shaw and Sunil Munjal as well as companies such as Citi and Tata.
“MAP is a non-profit institution that does not currently receive any government
funding and is a major unit and project of Art & Photography
Foundation. The programming is financed by private patrons and
corporate sponsorship. All income received through retail,
membership or ticketing for entrance fees, special exhibitions and
certain events will be reinvested in the subscription of the museum
activities,” a spokesperson said.
So is this a watershed moment for Indian museums? Born in India
Natasha Ginwala, Associate General Curator at Gropius Bau in Berlin, says: “What is exceptionally interesting about MAP is the complex web of visual cultures that come together in this collection ranging from early
photography to “calendar art”, movie posters and indigenous traditions
from ironwork to painting. These facets are accompanied by a
extensive inclusion of figures of modernism that emerged across the
country, the likes of Jyoti Bhatt to Arpita Singh. What’s left to see
that’s how adventurous the curatorial and discursive setting will be
through the exhibitions and programs produced.
In recent years, private museums and foundations have played a more
active role in the cultural landscape of India which is a vital and welcome
sign, she adds. “[This development] must be understood in light of today’s social fractures, limited freedoms and ethnonationalism.
Politics. These entities have the immense responsibility of ensuring access and an atmosphere of openness while preserving the pluralism of
and contemporary cultural experience.
Last year, curators at the MAP museum used artificial intelligence software
to create a fire Bombay “conversational digital persona”
Progressive painter, MF Husain. Throughout the pandemic, the MAP has developed several innovative digital initiatives including Museums Without Borders (each episode of the YouTube series juxtaposes a work from the MAP with an object from a partner museum). “We hope that the MAP will be a catalyst that will help democratize art. We hope to collaborate with other museums across the country to create exciting spaces that people love to visit,” said Kamini Sawhney, Director of MAP.