City’s Metro stations are the new culture hubs
Like the metro system in Naples (Italy) is known for its ‘art stations’, Stockholm’s Tunnelbana as the longest art exhibition in the world and Moscow’s subway for the dreamy murals, Delhi’s Metro also offers artistic excursions of sorts to its commuters. The Metro stations in the city are not merely overcrowded intersections but also culture hubs. History is no more confined to books and libraries but is on a proud display in the form of photographs, metallic installations, graphs and paintings. As a part of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation’s (DMRC) endeavours to promote art and culture through artworks, display panels and exhibits, some of its stations have been turned into canvases. Having tied up with various government bodies/organisations like National Book Trust, Delhi Tourism, Sahitya Akademi, India Habitat Centre and the textile ministry, DMRC is enhancing the overall commuting experience. As part of a beautification drive for its stations, DMRC commissioned artworks at several of stations, many of them in south Delhi.
In the upcoming phases of the Metro, line 7 (pink line) is going to be the longest network in the country, which also calls for maximum passenger interface. All underground stations on this corridor will have attractive glass panels. Twelve stations, including the ones in south Delhi — Bhikaji Cama Place, Sarojini Nagar, INA, South Extension, Lajpat Nagar, Ashram and Hazrat Nizamuddin — will be decked up with art panels. HT South Delhi visited a few stations.
Govind Puri Metro station on the ITO-Faridabad corridor has been decorated with wall artwork as part of DMRC’s efforts of utilising its premises for the promotion of art and culture. The initiative, led by St+art India, a non-profit organisation promoting street art, has transformed the face of the station. The boundary walls, foot overbridges and the exteriors of the station are painted with themes depicting the many facets of life. As a part of promotions for a street art festival, Italian artist Agostino Iacuraci has given commuters expressions like a girl with flowing tresses, big branched trees and white tigers. Right after its commencement, delighted commuters were seen sharing pictures on social media with the Metro artwork in the backdrop.
“The art works as a stress reliever. Other stations should get a similar makeover,” said Smriti Singh, a student.
This year in March, an exhibition was inaugurated at Green Park Metro station which is a stone’s throw from city’s art hub Shahpur Jat and the ever-bustling Hauz Khas village. Attractive panels with 35 photographs, installations, line drawings and maps depict the crafts produced in Hauz Khas and Shahpur Jat. Monuments in the vicinity of the station were brought to life with unique photographs chronicling their splendour. Commuters are bound to be struck by the elaborate display of the medieval city of Siri, the royal tank of Hauz Khas, the madrasa founded by sultan Firoz Shah Tughluk in the 14th century and several exquisite mosques and tombs like Thanewala Gumbad, Muhammad Wali Masjid, Chit Minar, Makhdum Sahib mosque, Darwesh Shah ki Masjid, Moth ki Masjid and Dadi ka Gumbad. The exhibition by Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (INTACH) displays photographs and information with an objective to promote heritage by taking these subjects to the commuters.
“Most commuters are young and the idea is to get the public, especially youngsters, interested in the heritage that surrounds them. We are glad that our curative efforts were able to help us in utilizing this premise for the promotion of Indian heritage, art and culture,” said INTACH’s Bindu Manchanda.
In 2010, in association with the ministry of textiles, DMRC installed a gallery displaying handicrafts, murals, paintings and handloom at INA Metro station. The platform ramps lead commuters to a gallery showcasing the artistic skill of the craftsmen across the country. Eye-catching geometrical patterns of Bihar’s Mithila or Madhubani paintings stand next to Tamil Nadu’s Tanjore art, Banaras’ brocade, Rajasthan’s terracotta tiles, Odisha’s Patachitra paintings and blend well with the colours of Kanjeevaram saris and Phulkari embroidery. The gallery, titled ‘Crafts of India’ has been installed to promote the works of 58 award-winning craftsmen and painters. “The murals and paintings were shortlisted by the ministry of textiles. The galleries have been installed at this station as a large number of tourists, especially foreigners, come here to visit Dilli Haat,” said a ministry of textiles official.
As soon as one enters the Metro station, a digital bouquet by UK-based photographer and lecturer Tony Clancy welcomes you. More than 25 different hues of flowers and gardens arrest the sight. With gardens as the theme, the works show lavish flower arrangements, flowers from America intermingled with peonies from China next to more humble natives such as cornflowers. “We chose Jor Bagh because it is a quieter station, so people can enjoy art at leisure,” said IHC’s Alka Pandey.
DMRC and IHC agreed to work together to bring art in the public domain so that community art could become a reality in Delhi. From time to time, IHC displays panels on art and culture at the Jor Bagh and Mandi House stations based on different themes. The panels are full of information on history of photography in India and some rare photographs with added trivia so that not only enthusiasts but also commuters and the public can appreciate art.
Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium was the venue for the 2010 Commonwealth Games inaugural ceremony, and the remains of the event can be spotted in the nearby station. Special murals, paintings, drawings and ceramic artworks not only give the station a distinct look but also act as a reminder of the grand host that Delhi was. The walls, with specially designed tile artwork with 3D effects showcase the various sporting events that were held during the games. The CWG mascot ‘Shera’ also catches much attention while the rest of the tile artwork on the 163-metre-long concrete walls looks majestic. The events have been depicted through uniquely stylized pictograms created on the tiles.
At the Khan Market and Jangpura stations, hand-drawn sketches and drawings have been transformed into digital technique with vibrant colour effects and computer generated printing of surfaces. The mural work infuses life into concrete and iron structures by breaking the monotony. The murals cover a plethora of themes like Panchtantra tales, Harappan and Mohenjodaro civilizations, environment, monuments and the making of Metro rail.
While its construction is still in progress, the Metro station already looks promising. “It’s for the first time that designs have been sought on such a huge scale for the station. The response has been quite good as we received 629 submissions. About 50 artists have shown interest for beautification of the station,” a Metro official said.
Artworks at the station have been provided by the Crafts Museum. The station is home to a unique art gallery of craft maps, such as a shawl map of Srinagar, and a map made entirely out of terracotta stars. There are 48 large-sized artistic craft maps covering all the Indian states. The maps also give information about the haats, art hubs and festivals of each state. These craft maps were conceptualized by Dastkari Haat Samiti, a national association of Indian crafts people. Highlighting the textiles of the states and presenting relevant information about them, the traditional art forms are cast in a bright light.