1. What was the inspiration behind Museum of Art & Photography (MAP)?
Much of the museum’s holdings come from our extensive collection of Indian art, photography and textiles over the past three decades. Having grown up around art, I cultivated a keen interest in art through several personal relationships with Indian artists. The most significant was my relationship with the artist Manjit Bawa who mentored me and introduced me to the works of many other leading modern artists of the time, such as Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, Arpita Singh and J. Swaminathan, most of whom are important names in MAP’s current collection.
Inspired by his travels and visits to museums around the world, I was eager to revive the cultural landscape of the city of Bengaluru, and to pioneer a museum-going culture for children and adults. This is how the ambitious project of MAP was born. In December 2016, Christie’s held an auction of a major contingent of our Poddar family’s personal collection, and the funds acquired were used to drive forward his vision. This major contribution also encouraged the establishment of MAP’s Gifts Programme, which allowed for donations of artworks by other patrons and artists, such as Deepak Puri, Jyoti Bhatt, and Barbara Kipper. Today, MAP is custodian to a growing collection of over 60,000 artworks that take viewers on a comprehensive journey of Indian art and culture.
2. How is it different from others in the similar space?
It’s important to make the distinction that MAP is a museum, and not a gallery. The shows at the museum are not commercial artists, but rather curations of artwork across time and space that explore certain ideas as viewed through different lenses. We’re driven by bringing art and people together, and try to create a myriad of spaces to facilitate that. Our museum brims with ideas and conversations that enable cultural exchanges between our several communities. At MAP, we hope to inspire people to interact with art in ways that encourage humanity, empathy and a deeper understanding of the world we live in.
Since we are trying to create a culture of enjoying and participating in museums, we are also invested in making art as accessible a space for all. We hope to change the perception of museums and art by making our museum a melting pot of ideas, stories and cultural exchange; and most of our programming and exhibitions are dedicated to fulfilling that goal the best we can.
3. Tell us about all the research that went behind the making of it?
Considering that no understanding of art can be complete and conclusive, it is hard to describe the many working parts that bring the Museum’s collection and its curations together. However, we do not view ourselves as the custodians of the culture – only the artworks. Our mission is to produce, publish, contextualise and challenge existing canons and categories in art discourse.
4. Tell us more about the inclusivity factor that you have curated so beautifully?
We are mindful of building a museum for all — a cause that is reflected in our programming, outreach and all that we do at MAP. Inclusion is the foundational pillars of our organisation, and everything from the programming to the architecture to our individual attitudes take a 360-degree approach towards making art as accessible to everyone as we can. We offer programming in the local languages, along with ISL transcriptions for all the video and audio content we publish. The museum itself is also designed with access in mind, from the parking to the washrooms to wheelchair mobility in the museum. A number of gallery attendants are always available on site, should you need their help.
5. Please share some details on some of the popular artworks showcased at MAP?
MAP is custodian to a growing collection of over 60,000 artworks that take viewers on a comprehensive journey of Indian art and culture, which of course includes quite a collection of works across the Indian National treasure artists: Jamini Roy, Raja Ravi Varma, Nandalal Bose, Sailoz Mookherjea; as well as the work of Indian modern masters including SH Raza, FN Souza, MF Husain, VS Gaitonde, KH Ara, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta, Manjit Bawa, KG Subramanyan, Bhupen Khakhar. The Museum collection also features important contemporary art, the likes of Jitish Kallat and Arpita Singh.
For photography, it ranges from 19th century by foreign photographers travelling in India (Henri Cartier a reason and studios such as Bourne & Shepherd, Francis Frith & Co) to India’s earliest photographers like Lala Deen Dayal, Sawai Ram Singh to modern and contemporary photographers – Jyoti Bhatt, Pushpamala N, TS Satyan, Dayanita Singh, Karen Knorr, Gauri Gill and Raghu Rai.
6. Tell us about Beyond Theory: Mapping Feminist Practices in the Contemporary.
Beyond Theory: Mapping Feminist Practices in the Contemporary was our first ever annual conference in conjunction with the three-year-long, inaugural exhibition, VISIBLE/INVISIBLE Representation of Women in Art through the MAP Collection.
Drawing from the various thematic threads of the collection, VISIBLE/INVISIBLE highlights questions and frameworks in order to broaden the arguments within feminist discourse. By expanding on the dialectics of our permanent exhibition, the conference is centred on what constitutes feminist practice in the contemporary milieu. It sought to bring forth, re-look and re-question, and thereby reorient existing frameworks that surround discourses on gender identities and gendered politics within creative practices.
It featured an incredible roster of speakers across the different genres of practice, and the list of speakers included: Adira Thekkuveettil, Afrah Shafiq, Anpu Varkey, Anuja Ghosalkar, Arushi Vats, Avni Sethi, Chinar Shah, Dee, Deepa Dhanraj, Ekta Mittal, Jasmeen Patheja, Laxmi Murthy, Pramodha Weerasekera, Rashmi Sawhney, Shukla Sawant, Srijana Kalkini, Veerangana Solanki, Vijeta Kumar, Yashaswani Raghunandan among others.
7. Tell us about the current exhibition Mindscapes: In the company of others that is on till August this year?
Indu Antony’s exhibition, as part of the international programme Mindscapes foregrounds questions around language on mental health and the city, care and a shared space for healing in togetherness. In Bengaluru, multiple identities co-exist in the form of languages and dialects which occasionally overlap. In a structure of exclusion to express emotional health, this exhibition intends to locate spaces in which spoken language takes the shape of gestures, actions and thoughts. What is speakable, how do we share our trauma, experiences but also joy and respite? When do we speak up loudly for ourselves and when do we whisper? Can we connect the idea of volume to mental health and think of loud and quiet spaces?
With Indu Antony’s work at the centre of the exhibition, it not only raises questions about identity, play, rest and the location of the self but also about the space for emotions, trauma and joy. The exhibition showcases jointly produced works between Indu with women in Lingarajapuram and Namma Katte that have evolved out of conversations over the past two years, but also reflect the artist’s mindspace and identity.
Alongside Indu Antony’s work, we see this as an opportunity to share other projects that evolved as part of the Mindscapes programme, which is organised in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation supporting science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone.
As part of the Mindscapes exhibition, MAP also showcases the work of Cecilie Falkenstrøm, the Mindscapes international artist in residence, titled “I see it, so you don’t have to”. The Art for Thought toolkit will also be on display together with Mindscapes artist in residence at large Christine Wong Yap’s co-created zines. Expanding the conversation on mental health, art and language in the exhibition space is a thoughtful film work titled Kālaji Nagara by Maitri Gopalakrishna and Debosmita Dam. In addition to the exhibition, MAP is planning a vast programme of engagements for children and adults.