10 years after revamp, Mumbai’s Bhau Daji Lad museum continues to give glimpse of history
The museum hosts some of the best contemporary art exhibitions in the city, working in association with museums from around the world.mumbai Updated: Jan 11, 2018 10:36 IST
It’s been 10 years since the Bhau Daji Lad museum reopened in its Unesco award-winning form.
Built in colonial style in 1857, complete with Milton tiles, wooden windows and large pillared halls, the museum was built to showcase the business crafts of Britain. Its restoration was a five-year labour of love led by INTACH (the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage), supported by the Mumbai Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation. Today, the museum hosts some of the best contemporary art exhibitions in the city, working in association with museums from around the world.
Under the directorship of Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, it has showcased works by prominent artists such as LN Tallur, Nalini Malani, Jitish and Reena kallat, Atul Dodiya and Sudarshan Shetty, in keeping with the idea that museums aren’t about history alone but about contemporary culture too. The Bhau Daji Lad also now offers an art history programme, host art film screenings, lectures, workshops and story-telling sessions in multiple languages.
“The museum came back into the public’s consciousness after its restoration. Before that it wasn’t perceived as a place of relevance,” says Kallat. “It has been a leading example of what a cultural space can do, which is to preserve history and intersect with present moment with its contemporary art project.”
There’s been controversy too, most notably with reference to its use of land and its expansion plans. The museum is now focusing on a digital extension, via virtual tours and Google Art and Culture Lab.
“The most heartening thing has been how the demographic of our visitors is changing. Earlier we only got spillover from the zoo; now the museum has become a destination in itself,” says Mehta. “Recently, we started Marathi Katha, which has become hugely popular. A vegetable seller from the neighbourhood is one of our most regular visitors. People appreciate the mix of contemporary and historic programming and it’s a lesson in how people respond to art.”
The future, Mehta says, will depend on space. “The long-term vision for Mumbai, if it wants to become a truly global city, must include more state of the art cultural spaces. In the short term we hope to develop our digital space more actively including interactives on the collections and a global chat show with Google who is partnering our efforts,” she adds. “We would also like to grow the education space and take it online.”