Pushing the envelope of what four walls with exhibits can be, the new Museum Of Art And Photography (MAP) in Bangalore comes with state-of-the-art features and the spirit of inclusivity. This ranges from architectural features that prevent artworks from being exposed to UV rays to commissioned pieces from underrepresented groups to bridge important gaps in cultural narratives. Here’s a walkthrough of the space.
60,000 works of art – sculptures, textiles, graphics, indigenous art, photographs, Bollywood memorabilia, and more – are couched within the new and modern five-storey, 44,000 square foot meticulously-designed Museum Of Art and Photography (MAP), Bangalore. Complementing the galleries are a library, an auditorium for programming, art storage and restoration spaces, educational classrooms, a retail space, rooftop restaurant, and a Smoor cafe.
At the top is a steel facade – representative of colonial-era tankers that held precious cargo – to protect art from light damage. However, head to the ground floor and you’ll be greeted with abundant sunlight, and a breezy courtyard featuring basalt interpretations of yogis and yoginis by British sculptor Stephen Cox. Digitally-lit lamps flicker from within the doors – easily customisable with the help of QR codes. Meanwhile, a glass facade paints the city traffic in hues of pink and purple. Right at the outset, it’s evident that this space aims to redefine the conventional museum-going experience.
Museum of Art and Photography, Bangalore opens with four inaugural exhibitions
Walk into the Infosys Foundation Gallery and you’ll be met with sanitised white walls and a fusion of the digital and physical, past and present. Spotlighted here are sculptures by contemporary artist LN Tannur each of which are a commentary on the growing human reliance on technology. Playing with materials like plywood and white marble, he discusses the switch in faith from gods to data. From a self-portrait to a near-violent commentary on the production of marble – there’s a certain hair-raising quality to the collection titled Chirg-e-Al (the lamp of artificial intelligence). At the end of the room, the piece Data Mining depicts how trees hold data of time and age – reminiscent of an excavated body.
Right outside, is the Sasken Multimedia Gallery – a collection of expansive interactive touch-screen installations that allow visitors to learn more about every piece of art – allowing for a more immersive, educational experience. A floor above, smaller similar screens that work in tandem offer curated shows that can be accessed digitally – simulating the feeling of an exhibition space.
On the third floor is a photographic journey through rural India and the country’s cultural archives by acclaimed artist Jyoti Bhatt. Featured here are dynamic images of rural communities, traditions like tattooing and embroidery, portraits of fellow artists like Nasreen Mohamedi and Bhupen Khakar, and his experiments with multiple modes of photography – multiple exposure to fragmented mirror images.
A permanent exhibit discusses the visibility of women in art and public spaces
The fourth floor houses the permanent exhibition Visible/Invisible: Representation of Women in Art which spotlights the paradox of how women have been a visible part of art through the years, while remaining an invisible agent in their own narratives and public spaces. This is done through four key sections – Goddess and Mortal, Sexuality and Desire, Power and Violence, Struggle and Resistance – each of which systematically dismantle decades of societal oppression and objectification. Some of the more gripping pieces include the vibrant Rekha Rodwittiya creation At The Graveyard Of My Childhood which reflects growing pains and the bold protest piece I Let My Hair Loose by Anoli Perera that resists the male gaze by tossing hair in front of the face.
“We really want the exhibition to be a catalyst, to get people to start questioning prejudices that we inherit.” notes Kamini Sawhney, Director of MAP, who curated this particular exhibition. “We’re also keen on being a platform for multiple voices, not just a certain kind,” she adds, pointing to the museum’s general democratic, non-linear approach to art. The potpourri of artwork here – in line with this inclusive philosophy – ranges from classic, historically significant to abstract and emotional, spanning mediums like photography, stitch embroidery, modeling (sculpture), film (posters), and dynamic multimedia installations.
The old and classic are juxtaposed with the new and mass produced. The latter is underlined by Bollywood memorabilia, pop-culture details, and film posters that offer an insight into the space women occupied in the entertainment industry, while simultaneously touching upon the exploitation they were subjected to. Also spotlighted here are eminent artists like Mrinalini Mukherjee, Arpita Singh, and M.F. Husain as well as commissions from underrepresented groups like non-binary and transgender artists. Featuring right alongside a few of these are unique tactic responses by textile artists Gurjeet Singh which allow for a unique hands-on approach to art – a far departure from conventional gallery practice and an innovative way of including those with disabilities.
These details – digital accessibility to intersectionality – collectively further the museum’s egalitarian approach to art – which comes with the promise of better learning and engagement with the medium. “As someone who has had the privilege of being surrounded by art all my life, and encountered the ideas of artists from an early age, I came to the realisation that I must share this transformative experience with others,” Abhishek Poddar, Founder and Trustee of MAP stated at the launch before adding, “My hope for MAP is that it can reach people, especially the next generation, in whose hands our future is held.”
Address: 22 Kasturba Road, Bengaluru, Karnataka
All images: The Museum Of Art and Photography, Bangalore
This story first appeared on Travel+Leisure India and South Asia.