How are museums and galleries catering to their patrons during lockdown?

One of the reference images for a thol bommalattam stencil   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Be it a Degas, replete with the fleeting beauty of an Impressionist painting dominated by the serenity of pastel shades or a Padamsee, narrating stories in bright tones, colours and abstract figures — it is imperative that visual arts take up the online space now more than ever, as the country’s cultural life inevitably heads towards a standstill. While the Met and MOMA are embracing this change by asking its connoisseurs to revisit popular attractions through virtual tours (in the former’s case, the magnificent Neo-Classical Grand Hall, the Gothic Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park and the more-than-2,000-years-old Temple of Dendur can be viewed through 360-degree videos), Indian galleries are introducing interactive digital interventions aimed at children and adults alike.

During these long, unexpected bouts of self-isolation, art continues to be a medium that a lot of people turn to. This does not come as a surprise. The therapeutic qualities of the arts — be it visual or performative — are time and again proven to be tools of self-expression in a possibly ‘lonely’ time. Digital galleries and physical ones that are under closure, are tapping into this aspect to make their presence felt online and are trying to be informative while doing so.

Imagine you are stuck within the four walls of your home and are magically gifted with stencils that you could fill colour into. What if these very stencils come with little nuggets of information that describe the genre of art it is done in? Mumbai-based Sarmaya, a digital museum with a diverse range of Indian art and artefacts, built from the private collection of Paul Abraham (founder), has introduced downloadable stencils of their folk and indigenous art collections — Gond art and thol bommalattam puppets, to be precise. “How do we create something that is fun and also has a learning opportunity and scope for reference? This was the idea behind creating the stencils,” says Avehi Menon, archive director at Sarmaya.

The reference pictures also give information about the philosophy behind these art forms, all of which is available on the website, she adds. This move was welcomed by children and their parents alike, the latter engaging in research following the activity. And it complemented the ‘museum without boundaries’ concept that Sarmaya had adopted since its inception. “While smaller, physical museums suffered more due to this unprecedented move, we have also had to replan our programming in terms of content,” adds Avehi. Art in some way provides hope and comfort and the act of engaging in something creative, while learning new things, is vital in times such as these.

At Mumbai’s Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation (JNAF), which had been closed since March 14, specially curated content is being doled out on social media, as a response to the needs of the time. They recently initiated an interactive activity on Instagram aimed at those who worked from home. Titled ‘What’s on your lunch table’, the activity invited people to doodle on a line drawing of a table which was taken from an FN Souza painting, which was part of JNAF’s collection. The responses that they received, which were consequently put out as Instagram stories, were varied to say the least — while some had plated dishes on the tables, others portrayed laptops and work materials on their dining table, which currently doubles up as a work table; some even drew hand sanitisers as an integral part of their table. In addition to this, an online exhibition of Akbar Padamsee’s work, titled Akbar Padamsee: A Tribute, is also accompanied by impressively curated information which is consolidated as Instagram stories. “He had done these retro graphic works in the late 90s. We have made colour sheets inspired by them that can be downloaded and used in screens or otherwise,” Kamna Anand of JNAF, adds. A Women’s History Month (March) campaign is also underway — “Every weekend, since March 8, we put up a work by one of the women artists from our collection with relevant information,” adds Kamna.

A filled out doodle worksheet

A filled out doodle worksheet   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

In the following weeks, such creative interventions will undoubtedly be on the rise. As much as these exercises are therapeutic, they also encourage adults to minimise their screen time. So, now is the right time to dive in and seek respite in colours.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 9:07:07 PM |

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