Can a museum be contained within four walls? I think not. History, art, music and politics are such fluid intangible forces that they permeate through the thickets of walls and find their way into every nook and corner of our world. They can never be caged or done justice only through white-cube spaces, exhibits, and museums. Introducing Delhi Art Gallery’s annual festival, The City as a Museum, which is conceived upon this fundamental idea.
Ashish Anand, CEO and Managing Director, DAG
This 10-day festival returns with its third edition and is set to take place from November 17 to 26, 2023, featuring a diverse range of events, including walks, talks, workshops, performances, and more. The festival aims to explore Bengal's rich legacy of art and design by presenting these events at historic sites and archives primarily across Kolkata and also in other towns in West Bengal.
This year’s edition will highlight the integration of Bengal’s art and aesthetics into everyday life — whether it be delving into the enduring regional folk ritual of brata art, the emphasis on living traditions of crafts and decorative arts at the colonial art institutions, or exploring the Santiniketan-Sriniketan inspired ideals behind creative ways of living harmoniously with the local community and ecology — the festival has a lot to offer.
Such holistic interchange creates a cultural bridge enabling the attendees to trace the contributions of artists in more personal places such as homes, streets, festivals and the public spaces around them and build as much relatability as one does while encountering them in museum vaults and collections. The festival will take participants on a journey through a time machine as they travel through the present-day city of Kolkata by bus, tram, and on foot exploring the intertwined histories of art and architectural design and how that shapes the contemporary cityscape. But Bengal’s cultural history is not just limited to the geography of Kolkata which is why the festival will extend to other towns in the West Bengal district such as Chitpur and Taherpur.
This year, as The City as a Museum explores the intertwoven history of art and design, the DAG team will be looking closer at the stories behind everyday objects and how artists have both influenced and been influenced by them.
Sandesh-er Sandhane will be a walk and demonstration with historian Jayanta Sengupta and the DAG team through the markets of Chitpur following the journey of milk and how it turns into sandesh while tracing the connection between Battala prints and sandesh moulds.
Swadeshi Baithakkhana will be a visit to an antique furniture warehouse and the former home of historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar with Professor Rosinka Chaudhuri. It will trace the Swadeshi influence on our living spaces, and the transformation of furniture design.
Sora Brittanto will be a workshop and visit to Taherpur, Nadia, that will unpack the process and genealogies of sora-making with artists Ratan Paul and Gopal Paul, and artist-writer Dipankar Parui.
The festival will also delve into the design histories related to the performing arts and the role of artists in the realm of theatre and music.
Mis-en-stage will take place at the Natya Shodh Sansthan Theatre Archive, tracing the evolution of set design in Bengal under the guidance of renowned scholar Trina Nileena Banerjee.
Gab-Sur-Kinaar will be an exploration of the design of the instrument by tabla artists, Asif Khan and Rohen Bose, followed by a concert where Alla Rakha Kalawant will join them on the sarangi at the Jorasanko Thakur Bari.
Keyabat Meye will feature queer-feminist collective Samuho as they navigate the interplay between the interior and exterior lives of women at the cusp of nineteenth-century reform movements through a performance installation inspired by Shreepantha’s Keyabat Meye and the satirical tradition of Prahasan.
From traveling to majestic mansions to hustling through busy bus routes, from curated walks through art institutions to thought-enriching exploration of archives, from listening to regional folk music concerts to watching performances with powerful social commentary, from finding oneself at the origins of colonial art and design education to exploring the vibrant practice of bus art, the third edition of The City as a Museum will be a grandiose celebration, encompassing the multitude of influences that have shaped Bengal's cultural idiom over time.
All events during the 10-day festival are free. There are several interesting and unique events apart from those that we've highlighted. To register or get detailed information about each event, click here.
Dear readers from Mumbai, I will end with some more good news. The City as a Museum festival will travel to Mumbai in 2024 for its inaugural edition in your city.
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