Bangalore Arrives on the Art Museum MAP

Bangalore Arrives on the Art Museum MAP
A painting by Bhuri Bai, displayed at MAP Bengaluru Photo Credit: Courtesy of MAP, Bengaluru

The Museum of Art and Photography, all set to open later this year, has had an early birth in the form of an immersive online version

Prannay Pathak
March 09 , 2021
07 Min Read

One can say it without fear of dispute that India is not really your museum-lover’s haven. Most of our museum culture survives from the British rule and whatever is left is dominated by elitist spaces where the fear of esoteric art consumption and dialogue often hinders the casual visitor. Though history and memorial museums do make their way into unsuspecting tourists’ itineraries, the art museum has failed to be a phenomenon.

But it’s a time for reflection in more ways than one as regards culture and travel, and it couldn’t have been more opportune for the Museum of Art and Photography to come up in our midst. The haute entrant on the country’s museum-scape can challenge a lot of your beliefs when it comes to art and image-making. Situated in Bengaluru, the new-age space is set to open its doors this year. But when it does, will you be there to witness it?

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Well, even if you won’t, fret not. In December 2020, the museum started a state-of-the-art virtual version through which museum tours can be undertaken. MAP, which was earlier supposed to start physically this year, will now operate as two-tier platform. The multidimensional screen experience is available in the form of curated exhibitions, events, streaming material and others.

For instance, an exhibition on the Bhil painter and muralist Bhuri Bai, available to view virtually, takes viewers through her life and artistic impulses, the ritualistic antecedents of Pithora painting—which is her medium—decodes her artistic vocabulary and grammar, and supplements it with further suggested readings. In another instance, Karnataka visual artist Tallur LN's fascinating video work Interference captures in slow motion a 4-minute-long video that depicts the cleaning of a two-hundred-year-old carpet that was once presented to Junagadh's nawab, Muhammad Mahabat Khan III.

A grab from Tallur LN's work Interference

Read: Museo Camera Opens After a Hiatus

Earlier in 2020, museums all over the world started doing immersive experiences through dedicated apps and websites. Instagram walkarounds and video tours became commonplace after the lockdown hemmed everybody in and clamped down on travel, and art lovers enjoyed the works of greats like Vincent Van Gogh, Artemisia Gentileschi and Frida Kahlo on their phone screens. Delhi’s Kiran Nadar Museum of Art launched 360-degree panoramic walkthroughs of their exhibitions in October.

As Rishad Premji puts it in an introductory video shared on the museum's Instagram account, MAP Bengaluru seeks to rid art of the art-show elitism it is often charged with, make it more approachable for a greater pool of viewers/visitors, and to contribute in the reinstitution of a museum-going culture. The museum has benefited from the family collection of its founder, the well-regarded industrialist and leading art patron Abhishek Poddar, who is known to have started collecting works by prominent artists as a teen. Currently, around 7,000 picks from his collection adorn the galleries.

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The museum, the first-ever private establishment of its kind to come up in the tech hub, is located in the heart of the city, and its five storeys house several art galleries, an auditorium, a library for art research, a dedicated research and conservation facility, an education centre and a terrace cafeteria, as visitors will find out once walk-ins are started later in the year.

Read: Mumbai’s CSMVS is Opening Again

MAP is home to close to 18,000 stunning works of art ranging from modern and contemporary art, paintings and photography to textiles, sculptures and installations, and works of popular art. The same museum houses colourful, tableau-style chromolithographs from the 19th century depicting Hindu deities, wrestling clubs, textiles from various parts of the country as well as avant-garde contemporary art and rare archival photographs such as those of Nagda photographer Suresh Punjabi, not to forget those from other collections.

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Poddar had elsewhere revealed that the museum has collaborated with tech giants to develop AI-driven digital personas to interact with visitors, a feature that is expected to further elevate the interactive experience. MAP is also part of the Museums Without Borders initiative that seeks to expand and foster a shared sense of museum fraternity and for visitors to experience a greater breadth of artwork all across the world.

Art for Children’s Sake
If you thought museums are the last place to take children to, MAP seeks to change that, too. The online experience at MAP has dedicated sections offering learning experiences for all ages. While school trips and walkthroughs to be conducted physically are in the pipeline, digital resources are also available to encourage children to consume works of art and learn interpretation, in the process helping them to broaden their perspective. These 'courses' introduce young minds to concepts such as space, portraiture, fantastic creatures in art and styles followed by iconic painters. Discover MAP packs are available for downloading and can be used for engrossing family-bonding activities.

An artwork that is part of a children's pack at MAP online

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