A New Bangalore Museum Is On A Mission To Sustain & Enrich Homegrown Visual Art

Visitors discussing a painting at MAP
Visitors discussing a painting at MAPMAP

The Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), located in a modern architectural building in South India’s capital city Bengaluru, has been open to the public since 18 February 2023. MAP has been created to act as a lighthouse shining on Asian arts and culture globally. It has a rich collection including extensive digital as well as physical content. It is the first new private museum to open in India after a decade. MAP is the magnum opus of industrialist and collector Abhishek Poddar, who gifted the museum its founding collection. MAP is led by its director, Kamini Sawhney.

L: Abhishek Poddar R: Kamini Sawhney
L: Abhishek Poddar R: Kamini Sawhney Orange & Teal

"From the very beginning we wanted MAP to be accessible to everyone. And to speak especially to a young generation whose visual experiences are so greatly influenced by the digital world. More than half of our population is under 25 years old; no country has more young people. We are fortunate to have been able to start from scratch thinking in an integrated way about how to approach audiences, whether they are in schools in Bangalore or in communities across the world. Audiences we couldn’t have dreamt of reaching through the building alone."

Kamini Sawhney

MAP houses a growing collection of over 60,000 artworks that take viewers on a sweeping journey of Indian art and culture. The collection is primarily from the Indian subcontinent and dates from the 10th century to the present. One of India’s most prominent collectors, Abhishek Poddar has acquired a vast collection of Indian art, sculpture, photography, and textiles over the past three decades, which forms the heart of MAP’s collection. Poddar had a keen interest in art since childhood and over the years he formed several personal relationships with Indian artists, of which the dearest was his friendship with the artist Manjit Bawa. Bawa guided the young collector and introduced him to the works of many other leading contemporary artists at the time, such as Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, Arpita Singh, and J. Swaminathan, most of whose works are important features in MAP’s current collection.

As someone who has had the privilege of being surrounded by art all my life, and encountered the ideas of artists from an early age, I came to the realisation that I must share this transformative experience with others. My hope for MAP is that it can reach people, especially the next generation, in whose hands our future is held. More than half of our population are under 25 years old; no country has more young people. I believe they are the ones, the generation of change, who will eventually be the real curators of MAP

Abhishek Poddar

MAP’s building is a modern 44,000-square-foot building, located in the heart of Bangalore’s museum quarter. It has been designed by Bangalore-based architects, Mathew & Ghosh. The museum is divided into five stories and includes art galleries, a library, an auditorium, a multimedia gallery, a sculpture courtyard, a technology center, a learning center, specialized research and conservation facility, a café, a gift store, a member's lounge, and a terrace fiene-dining restaurant.

A visitor at an art gallery in MAP
A visitor at an art gallery in MAPKrishna Tangirala

MAP’s inaugural exhibitions and displays provides a window into the stories that the museum’s collection weaves. One exhibition, titled VISIBLE/INVISIBLE, focuses on the representation of women in Indian art, and will be on for the next three years. The range of collections includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, jewelry, and textiles. Time & Time Again is a solo exhibition of eminent Indian photographer, Jyoti Bhatt, who has been one of the most instrumental artists in documenting rural India. One of MAP’s most important photographic archives contains 1,000 prints and 60,000 negatives from Bhatt’s photographic body of work. The exhibition features more than 160 photographs as well as contact sheets and archival materials that charts Bhatt’s photographic journey during the second half of the 20th century. Time & Time Again is accompanied by a publication. Both the book and exhibition solidify Bhatt’s position as one of the most revered artists of post-independence India.

Children withmehndi on their hands (Rajasthan), 1972
Silver gelatin print
Children withmehndi on their hands (Rajasthan), 1972 Silver gelatin printJyoti Bhatt
L: Fine Arts Fair, Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University (Baroda, Gujarat), 1967
Digital file from the original negative R: Ranjan Patel (Baroda, Gujarat), c.1958
L: Fine Arts Fair, Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University (Baroda, Gujarat), 1967 Digital file from the original negative R: Ranjan Patel (Baroda, Gujarat), c.1958 Jyoti Bhatt

Sculptures play a vital role in both MAP’s inaugural day and overall collection. Chirag-e-Al is a solo show of the artist L.N. Tallur, hailing from the state of Karnataka. Tallur’s show draws from traditional sculptures and lamps in MAP's collection, to create intersections between artificial intelligence (AI) and ritualistic belief systems. The aim is to challenge the audiences and question our ever-increasing dependence on technological systems. Mythical characters melt and morph, as he muses on how AI can transform them. His reimagination of historical objects and sculptural practices initiates dialogue examining concepts such as modernity, industrialization, capitalism, and technology.

White Space, 2022
Pigment and oil on 
White Space, 2022 Pigment and oil on marble.L.N. Tallur
L: Hack Geek, 2022
Oil paint on bronze and
wood R: Data Mining, 2022. Plywood.
L: Hack Geek, 2022 Oil paint on bronze and wood R: Data Mining, 2022. Plywood.L.N. Tallur

Dialogues in Stone is another sculptural exhibition by internationally acclaimed sculptor and Royal Academician, Stephen Cox, which is displayed in the Sculpture Courtyard at MAP. These basalt-carved sculptures greet audiences as they enter the museum. These sculptures portray mythical beings through minimalist forms. The titles of these sculptures refer to puissant goddesses and sages. The works of two of India’s eminent contemporary artists, Ayesha Singh and Tarik Currimbhoy, is also on display in central locations throughout the museum.

A sculpture entitled 'The Cobra'
A sculpture entitled 'The Cobra'Tarik Currimbhoy

Bangalore’s advanced technologies makes it possible for the new museum to be built on the foundations of a pioneering digital format, which was launched in 2020. This includes virtual exhibitions, artists talks, virtual reality experiences, and a series of keynote conversations with international museum directors highlighting the collections. The museum experience for MAP’s visitors is elevated with digital interventions, including the Sasken Multimedia Gallery, enabling the entirety of MAP’s collection to remain accessible, even when specific works are not on display.

Thanks to MAP such exciting and inspiring art is made available in the heart of India’s Silicon Valley. It will undoubtedly be a stimulating visual treat to visit this museum.

You can find out more about MAP here.

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