A group of artists and curators is redefining the way museums function, with many ‘artistic labs’ cropping up across India.
Take, for example, the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon. During a recent exhibition called Sarai Reader 09, about 100 artists lived and worked in the museum to see how they influenced each other’s art.
“We are interested in the idea of many, not the idea of one thing representing the nation,” said Anannya Mehtta, assistant curator.
Such ‘pop up’ museums are in stark contrast to state-run museums that focus primarily on national culture and usually shy away from contemporary art. Run by private institutions, the aim of these new-age museums is not to make a profit, but to defy conventions and give budding artists a platform.
“Should art not be made in contact with other artists or the public?” asked painter Parul Verma.
Delhi’s Kiran Nadar Museum of Art also asks this question. In fact, a recent exhibition titled Zones of Contact focused on what role museums should play in the country.
“India is too caught up in resurrecting a glorified past rather than encouraging contemporary cultural expressions,” said Tasneem Mehta, director of Mumbai’s Bhau Daji Lad Museum, a launchpad for interesting contemporary art projects.
Other institutions, such as the Piramal Museum that will open in Mumbai soon, will incorporate theatre alongside other art forms.
“Museums are the most visited places in the world right now, perhaps more than religious places,” sculptor Riyas Komu said.