Museum of Art & Photography goes virtual

The Bengaluru museum’s collection of over 18,000 artworks is now online. Plus, a Museums Without Borders initiative will give access to 50 international institutions

Updated - December 11, 2020 10:17 am IST

Published - December 10, 2020 07:30 am IST

Attakkalari Dance Company in action

Attakkalari Dance Company in action

The pandemic may have pushed Bengaluru’s Museum of Art & Photography’s (MAP) plans to house itself in a state-of-the-art facility to 2021, but it has started welcoming audiences virtually. Launched on December 5 with a week-long virtual festival titled Art (is) Life , it features interactive exhibitions with slide shows, short films, downloadable activity worksheets, and video streams of their past events.

What also sets this digital venture apart is the launch of Museums Without Borders (MWB). A collaboration with 50 international institutions, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and The Morgan Library and Museum, New York, the initiative will juxtapose a pair of objects — one from their collection and one from MAP’s — to discover connections based on theme, medium or period.

“Our aim with the digital museum [based on a membership model that is free till February 2021] is to actively work towards captivating new audiences,” says founder-trustee Abhishek Poddar. He sees it as a “parallel programming space” complementing the physical museum, with plans to keep global audiences engaged “by offering them something new each time they visit”.

Artwork by Jangarh Singh Shyam

Artwork by Jangarh Singh Shyam

Arts, connected

The opening night saw an hour-long showcase of art through time. Crafted as a sensorial experience, the pre-recorded video featured voices of lyricist-actor couple Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi, artist Jitish Kallat and classical dancer Malavika Sarukkai, among others.

Consequently, each evening’s 45-minute programme is themed on the museum’s various departments: from folk and tribal to pre-modern art, photography, and textile, craft and design. Historian William Dalrymple, designer Ritu Kumar and artist Rekha Rodwittiya are among those roped in as speakers to introduce the sessions. Also expect dance, theatre and musical performances themed on artworks. For instance, a jazz-fusion piece by Rajeev Raja and his band evoking pichwais of Lord Krishna and a theatre piece by Ram Ganesh Kamatham and Mallika Prasad responding to Vivek Vilasini’s Last Supper (a photograph with Kathakali dancers).

With featured collections — of over 18,000 artworks, predominantly from the subcontinent and spanning the 10th century to the present — being digitised every month, a new set of artworks will be available for researchers, students and art patrons. “It is going to develop over time, as we test responses and adjust our offerings accordingly,” says MAP’s director Kamini Sawhney. To make the programme more accessible, the videos are also available with subtitles and Indian sign language.

Last Supper by Vivek Vilasini

Last Supper by Vivek Vilasini

Match the objects

Speaking of Museums Without Borders, Sawhney says it allows audiences to not just virtually tour museums across the globe, but also gain a deeper understanding of India’s shared history with the rest of the world. For example, a collaboration with The British Museum in London pairs Nainsukh’s 18th century miniature painting Trumpeters with Tyeb Mehta’s Drummer from MAP’s modern and contemporary collection. “Though centuries apart and stylistically divergent, we found that both works were united by the theme of music,” adds Sawhney. Two iconic chairs from distinct cultures, a pida from Rajasthan and Rietveld Red-Blue from Germany’s Vitra Design Museum’s collection, sit together because of similarities in construction. Each day will showcase a new pair of objects.

In the first quarter of 2021, audiences can also expect the launch of the museum’s online store with “a selection of curated and well-designed items for the home and individuals”, Sawhney concludes.

Art (is) Life runs from December 5 to 11, 7 pm on The digital museum is live on

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