Meet someone from Bengaluru and the conversation invariably becomes a competition about why the city is better. Mumbai and Delhi come armed with conversations about space (Delhi wins) and air quality (Mumbai used to win) and Bengaluru people will, of course, talk about the weather. Then ,light hearted ribbing about the traffic situation ensues and Bengaluru inevitably must admit defeat. Of course, they bounce back with all the talk about the greenery in the city and the thriving culture and food scene. You’ve got to hand it to them. And now, Bengaluru has another feather in the cap, and every other city will have to work doubly hard to match up. The Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) has opened up in Bengaluru and as the name suggests, this is a treasure trove of information – tracing and documenting the many, many threads of India’s extensive and rich history.
MAP’s collection is exhaustive- more than 60,000 works are here and the collections cover a lot of ground from paintings and sculptures to graphics, textiles, indigenous art, and memorabilia of India’s world-famous Bollywood industry. A cursory glance will tell you that this is a space where the boundaries between what is considered high art and accessible art are blurred and the place seamlessly integrates everyday creativity of the region’s communities within its hallowed galleries.
Abhishek Poddar, the Founder and Trustee of MAP, wants the place to be democratic in its approach. He believes the young people are the ones that will be the generation of change and sees them as eventually becoming the real curators of MAP.
At The Art Of It
What will strike you immediately when you arrive at the MAP is that it doesn’t look anything like you expect a museum to be. And yet, it’s where you can imagine art being showcased. The space here is bright and big – it is a whole 44,000 square foot building. Sunlight streams in from the big windows and one wall changes colours – nothing about this is mundane or boring. The MAP houses five galleries, a café and a rooftop restaurant with sweeping views across the city, a 130 seat auditorium, a library housing extensive research material on Indian art and culture, freely available to students and researchers, and a conservation centre for the protection, maintenance and upkeep of artwork.
The conservation centre particularly caught my eye. An art conservationist was there hard at work as we got a tour – he was restoring an artwork requiring careful concentration – tiny bits of paper threatened to abandon the work table. The paraphernalia had me hooked. He showed us the colours, the gauze-like material used to strengthen artworks, the glue that was chosen carefully so as to not affect the artwork. It was fascinating.
Add To Art
The 5 galleries at the MAP each have unique exhibitions – each one evoking strong feelings. There’s nostalgia, drama, angst, pride, you feel it all as you walk through the space. The art installations by LN Tallur make you question your morals, your habits and everything you believe and there is a strong hint of violence here, something I discussed with the Director of MAP, Kamini Sawhney as she took us around. She laughed and said “That’s now how Tallur sees it.”
The interactive digital exhibit where pop culture is showcased is one of the most fun things I’ve looked at in a museum. There’s a screen where you can scan a QR code and light up a diya which will have your name on it. Another screen allows you to browse pop culture moments – advertisements from the early 1900s, matchbox art, movie posters. A simple click and the screen will reveal details of the artwork- the date, the brand, the artist etc.
The Visible Invisible exhibit at the MAP also deserves a special mention. Aptly named and beautifully nuanced, this exhibit takes a closer look at the the role of women in art through the MAP Collection. It features more than 130 works, each one coaxing you to look at the dichotomies faced by women. The art here covers a lot of ground- from the work done by women in hand woven textiles – to their roles in popular cinema.
Perhaps the best way to describe MAP is that it’s more of a meeting ground. A place where ideas, art and the people of the city come together. I imagine this space will grow to become quite the icon, occupying a pride of place in Bengaluru’s thriving cultural scene.
Want to read about a red carpet facial while you’re here? Tap here.