Patna plays host to international artists in G-20 cultural track exhibition - Hindustan Times
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Patna plays host to international artists in G-20 cultural track exhibition

ByDhamini Ratnam
Aug 07, 2023 06:08 PM IST

A mechanical plant, a Chinese sculptor’s vision of Mahatma Gandhi, a scroll painting from Japan and top Indian artists will show works at the Bihar Museum

August 8 will be a busy day for the staff at the Bihar Museum in Patna as they open the doors to visitors in the morning. On Monday, the museum inaugurated three different art programmes that will run contiguously till December: Works of artists from the 20 member countries of the G20 summit, including Russia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and China will be exhibited; the second iteration of the Bihar Museum Biennale will showcase works from four Indian museums as well as six international collections; and, to mark Bihar Foundation Day, the museum will showcase works of five Padma Shri folk artists, as well as exhibitions that storify its own making and the city’s changing museum landscape.

Cheap rice, an installation by Subodh Gupta (The Bihar Museum Biennale) PREMIUM
Cheap rice, an installation by Subodh Gupta (The Bihar Museum Biennale)

In all, artworks from over 20 countries will be shown at the museum. Works by well-known contemporary Indian artists, including Sudarshan Shetty, Subodh Gupta, Ravinder Reddy, Arpana Caur and Himmat Shah among others will also be on display.

“What I am most happy about is what all my small team at the museum has learnt in the past six months, when we started work on putting these exhibitions up,” said Anjani Kumar Singh, former chief secretary of the state and current chairperson for the advisory council of the Bihar Museum. “The exposure to [best practices], the nuances of various laws of different countries have been tremendous. And when the international artists and museum representatives start arriving from Monday, their learning will continue,” Singh said.

India plays host to the G20 summit this year. At least 15 artists from the member countries will participate in an exhibition titled ‘Together We Art’. The works showcased range across mediums from paintings to sculptures to videos and installations.

A sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi, by Chinese sculptor Wu Weishan (The Bihar Museum Biennale)
A sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi, by Chinese sculptor Wu Weishan (The Bihar Museum Biennale)

The works include a sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi made by the director of the National Art Museum of China, Wu Weishan (known for his oversized sculptures of Confucius), a scroll painting by Misako Shine from Japan, which will travel to Hiroshima after it is displayed at the Patna museum, as well as a site-specific installation titled Econario, a five-metre-tall robotic plant that grows or declines based on biodiversity prediction data from the Natural History Museum, UK. The work, made by Thijs Biersteker, uses a Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII) developed by the UK museum which indicates the future of biodiversity in 2050 based on our present-day political choices.

Alka Pande, chief curator of the museum biennale and the G20 culture track exhibition, oversaw various aspects such as liaisoning with artists and working with the scenographers, to writing the catalogue, and installing the works.

“Art transcends all boundaries, and people who live not in tier one but tier two cities are also getting to see the best in the world. How many international artists go to smaller cities?” Pande said.

While the three programmes will run contiguously, the G20 exhibition has been supported by the Union ministry of culture, and the other two — the biennale and the Bihar Museum’s own programming — are supported by the Bihar state government.

“The Bihar Foundation day and the Museum Biennale costs came to 5 crore, and we’ve received another 5 crore from the Union ministry for the G20 exhibition,” Singh added.

Econario, a robotic plant that grows or declines based on biodiversity prediction data, made by Thijs Biersteker(The Bihar Museum Biennale)
Econario, a robotic plant that grows or declines based on biodiversity prediction data, made by Thijs Biersteker(The Bihar Museum Biennale)

The biennale will see the participation of four Indian museums and collections, including the privately owned Kiran Nadar Museum in New Delhi, the upcoming National Maritime Heritage Complex museum in Lothal, the Salar Jung museum in Hyderabad and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai. It will also host exhibitions from countries like Nepal, Israel and Costa Rica and Panama, among others.

This is the second iteration of the biennale — but the first being held physically.

Batul Raj Mehta, who is the chief of strategy for the biennale said that various events like symposiums have also been planned over the course of the four months. “We collaborated with Kilkari, a children's hobby centre and Pratham to engage audiences across the museum and outside. Education programmes for schools across the country and for audiences with special needs have also been planned,” she added.

“The biennale is our effort to make a platform for museums around the world, and within India, to come together and share best practices, and knowledge. For example, we have a few pieces from the Salar Jung museum – no one knows of the [excellent] conservation work they do there,” Singh said.

The biggest learning, however, Singh added, was that work on the 2025 biennale needs to start now.

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