Ambitious Museum of Art and Photography Opens in Bengaluru
By Tong Tung Yeng
After months of construction delays, South India’s first major private art museum, the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP), will open in Bengaluru (Bangalore) on February 18. Founded by philanthropist and art collector Abhishek Poddar, the nonprofit museum spells new beginnings for the art scene in Bengaluru, an area long known as the “Silicon Valley of India.”
Construction for the five-story, 4,088-square-meter stainless steel building began in May 2018 but was interrupted by the global pandemic. Local architectural studio Mathew and Ghosh Architects designed MAP’s building to comprise five large galleries, an auditorium, a library, and a conservation laboratory, alongside several eateries; MAP was built to resemble the colonial water tanks seen across India.
During its opening week of February 18–24, MAP will organize a hybrid program of online and physical exhibitions and performances around the theme of “Art is Life: New Beginnings.” The program will feature, among others, a screening of LN Tallur’s film, The Swarm (2022); a Bharatanatyam dance performance by Rukmini Vijayakumar in response to MAP’s permanent exhibition, “Visible/Invisible”; and a film launch on the opening night for visitors unable to attend the event in-person.
MAP currently houses more than 60,000 works of sculpture, textile, and photography, including founder Poddar’s significant collection of South Asian art, craft, and antiquities, which he amassed over the years. An art collector since the early 1980s, Poddar established Tasveer Art Gallery in Bengaluru in 2006 with a focus on promoting contemporary Indian photography. Most notably, the museum has adopted a progressive approach befitting of Bengaluru’s status as a technological hub, incorporating new forms of digital media both in its collections and curatorial approach.
While MAP’s physical space remained under construction for an extended period, the museum operated online, organizing digital exhibitions and initiating online collaborations with other cultural institutions in the country and around the world. One of such programs was “Museums Without Borders,” a series of videos between six and ten minutes in duration. Each video compares an artwork from MAP's collection with an object from a partner museum, in an exploration of commonalities and differences in style, subject, or narrative.
MAP was once criticized as a “[big] mistake” when it was initially conceived, as Poddar envisioned it as a part of the Bengaluru landscape away from India’s existing artistic centers of New Delhi or Mumbai. However, minimal government support and a nascent cultural scene drew Poddar there to build the museum based on values of accessibility and inclusivity.
Tong Tung Yeng is ArtAsiaPacific’s editorial intern.