A new encyclopedia to make Indian art more accessible and inclusive is being created by the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP), a Bengaluru-based private museum, as part of its efforts to bring back the museum culture of Bengaluru.
“While there are not enough platforms to freely access information on Indian art history, our encyclopedia will help connect the arts with the community. All the content that we produce is designed to engage diverse communities, ranging from young learners at
schools to researchers to anyone with a latent interest in art,” a spokesperson from MAP told Hindustan Times in an email response. “Our content will go beyond the usual art forms to include more neglected works of craft and design, as well as folk and tribal art. Through this effort we hope to push the boundaries of what is considered ‘fine art’ to build a more fair and nuanced platform.”
With art currently perceived as an activity of the elite, there are few beyond this fraternity who take art seriously or persuade others, especially youngsters, to learn more about the subject that is intertwined with history, culture and tradition.
The Congress government between 2013-18 tried to revive the museum culture as part of its Brand Bengaluru initiative to induce tourists spend more on museum visits, creating a new revenue stream for the state coffers.
Bengaluru has a rich culture of art and places like Vishweshwaraiah Museum, HAL, Kempegowda, Venkatappa Art gallery, National Gallery of Modern Art, Chitrakala Parishath, and NIMHANS museum, among others, have tried to keep the culture alive in the city.
However, museums have become mostly part of the itinerary of excursions for school students. In comparison, Indians who travel to European countries are enthusiastic to visit museums.
MAP said that museums in India are elitist spaces.
“India thus does not really have a museum-going culture. Even Indians who line up to go to museums abroad shy away in India as museums in our country have unfortunately earned the reputation of being either dry and serious when associated with historical objects or elitist and intimidating when associated with modern and contemporary art. This perhaps is one of the main reasons behind the low footfalls, as people do not feel comfortable enough to walk into a museum on a Sunday to spend the afternoon with their families and kids,” MAP said in its response.
Vishweshwaraiah Industrial and Technological Museum, in its activity report for 2019-20, said that it attracted a total of 1.18 million visitors. But of this only 557,000 were general visitors and the remaining were mostly school students or visitors to its outreach programmes like science fairs.
Though MAP is a private organisation, its efforts, art experts say, are likely to help revive the culture of museums on Kasturba Road, which has three such establishments and could help connect other galleries in the city.
The Karnataka government is working to infuse fresh ideas into the tourism sector with initiatives like a book on unexplored destinations, reviving the brand of the state and its biggest city, Bengaluru, and promoting weekend getaways, as it looks to revive the fledgling travel industry sector in the post-pandemic era, Hindustan Times reported on September 29.
From over 180.4 million tourists in 2017, the numbers rose to 228.5 million in 2019 before dropping to 77.6 million in 2020, data from the state economic survey shows. The state had also announced a tourism policy for 2020-25 not just to promote more travellers for exploring the state but also attract investments to Rs.5,000 crore and provide direct and indirect jobs to over 1 million people. Karnataka accounts for nearly 12% of overall tourist visits in India and saw over 600,000 foreign tourists coming to the state in 2019, which dropped to 165,000 the following year. The previous BS Yediyurappa-led state government has set aside Rs.2,645 crore for the tourism department in its budget for this fiscal.
Street arts like that of Baadal Nanjundaswamy — making mermaids and crocodiles in potholed roads or the “MoonWalk” video in which he made a model walk in a space suit in a crater-filled road of Bengaluru — are appreciated for their messaging but not as a serious art.
Localities like Malleshwaram are witnessing campaigns to create artworks on walls along roads that have become a hit to clean the streets of the city and provide a more colourful experience.
Tourism initiatives had earlier included organising museum walks, food walks and other activities in Bengaluru and around it as part of the programme to promote spending at least $100 more by tourists in either visiting such sites or spending on memorabilia and merchandise.
“Whoever wants to get into it (merchandising), we have to get someone strong as they have to pump money to sustain it,” Dr CN Ashwath Narayan, Karnataka’s minister for higher education, IT & BT, Science & Technology, told Hindustan Times earlier.
Suresh Jayaram, a Bengaluru-based art historian, said that MAP and others are trying to position themselves to infuse fresh ideas to revive the museum cluster in the city.
“If you have vision, you can make Bangalore a city with the art community involved and also public, young children who can have a more experiential kind of tours than rushing kids from one end of the other (in museums during school excursions),” he said.
Published by HT Digital Content Services with permission from Hindustan Times.