It is exceptional for a museum director to cite financial development information while discussing their inaugural exhibition. But that is how Kamini Sawhney, head of the new Museum of Art and Photography in Bengaluru, made the decision on Seen/Invisible: Illustration of Females in Art By means of the MAP Collection. “In 2021, gals dropped to 20 for each cent of the workforce in India. That is reduce than Bangladesh. There was a report from Statista that stated that India was the most perilous region for ladies across a vary of parameters,” Sawhney suggests. “I felt this is a narrative we need to have to decide on up.”

The resulting exhibition, curated by Sawhney, combines art, sculpture, quilts, film posters and photography to tackle a monumental paradox in a land of paradoxes. Goddesses are ubiquitous and worshipped greatly in the country’s mythology Indira Gandhi was just one of the world’s initially girls primary ministers in 1966, and quite a few foremost politicians are females. Still inside and outside the property, most women have a de facto second-class status. MAP’s debut exhibition tackles this weighty issue in the two exhilarating and depressing vogue.

It commences with a few impressive sculptures of women deified as goddesses, one particular from 10th-century Karnataka, the province of which Bengaluru is the funds. The most latest do the job, in the meantime, this kind of as a 1980s bronze by Meera Mukherjee entitled “Mother Earth”, manages to project strength and compassion at the same time.

A computer-made image shows a modern metal-clad building in an urban setting
Personal computer rendering of the Museum of Art and Photography

A painting uses simple lines and blocks of colour to depict a woman carrying a child on her back, milking a cow
Jamini Roy’s ‘Krishna Yashoda’ (early 20th century)
A poster for a film shows a woman in a sari grimacing while carrying a wooden post, with the words ‘Mother India’ in large capital letters
‘Mother India’ film poster (1957) © Courtesy of MAP Museum of Artwork and Photography

In other operate, the day to day undermining of the standing of ladies is laid bare. Bollywood movie posters illustrate the common sexual objectification of females in well-known tradition although the early 20th-century do the job of Bengali artist Jamini Roy exemplifies perform that depicts women of all ages as Madonna-like mothers, often with a boy child, as in a single piece that includes the god Krishna with his foster mom Yashoda. Ingeniously, these performs are displayed close to a photorealist charcoal get the job done by Rajan Krishnan demonstrating girls in silent but reproachful protest, keeping up placards stating: “Why this overwhelming choice for a male baby?”

Close by are two photographs capturing a different type of deification of females. The to start with, by Raghu Rai, exhibits Indira Gandhi surrounded by adult men trying to find to photograph or garland her right after she was elected key minister yet again in 1980. The other, by Jyoti Bhatt, depicts a gigantic wall mural of Jayalalithaa, former chief minister of the southern condition of Tamil Nadu, whose male ministers were being known to prostrate on their own in advance of her.

These juxtapositions assist deliver validation for a new up to date art museum that roams greatly across tribal art and images in a vast-angled thematic exhibition, commonly not a toughness of Indian museums. Bengaluru, regardless of its prosperity and prominence as a back again workplace to the planet and residence to start-ups, is specifically improperly served by galleries and museums. In contrast to MAP, the National Gallery of Present day Artwork is federal government-managed but haphazardly curated.

A photograph taken in India shows a crowd of men carrying garlands of flowers and cameras clustering around a woman who smiles and reaches out to them
Raghu Rai’s ‘Victorious Indira Gandhi’ (1980) © Courtesy of MAP Museum of Artwork and Photography

Nevertheless the preliminary initiatives by businessman and art collector Abhishek Poddar to open MAP in partnership with the community authorities sparked furious protests by nearby artists 6 several years ago. This opposition centred all around Poddar’s track record — his family business enterprise is in explosives used for mining — and the commerce-significant board of MAP. Poddar has one particular of the premier private collections of artwork in India. Poddar’s really like for artwork started as a schoolboy reaching out to well-known Indian artists, whom he subsequently solid friendships with. He has donated 7,000 functions to MAP’s full of 60,000 items, which range from poster art to textiles to tribal and folks masterpieces as nicely as modern day art and photography. Poddar has a standing for currently being a relentless fundraiser. “He just keeps at it. In India, you have to have that,” claims one keen observer of the art scene.

Poddar’s household basis compensated for the land that the museum is on and its setting up was funded by private philanthropists and the foundations of Bengaluru’s famed info engineering companies. The five-storey museum is akin to a huge present box, strikingly dressed in stainless steel panels with a cross sample that aids lower the excess weight of the panels when evoking a incredibly modern day get on India’s water tanks. However, the web page region for the museum is just 10,450 sq ft, the developed space 33,900 sq ft. As a former artwork administrator suggests of MAP, “You could never ever have an Anish Kapoor exhibition listed here. The museum needed far more house and top.” Yet architects Soumitro Ghosh and Nisha Mathew have succeeded in finding home for galleries, a conservation centre, library and auditorium — as nicely as a rooftop café with superb sights of the bordering greenery and, ironically, the govt-operate galleries. And Ghosh says MAP will purpose as “an anchor point that extends into other spaces into the city”.

People wander amid stone sculptures which are placed around a white-walled courtyard with trees beyond
Sculptor Stephen Cox’s installation ‘Dialogues in Stone’ occupies a courtyard at the museum entrance © Iwan Baan

In a sense, it has already accomplished so. Even just before its opening on February 18, it has led workshops with some 9,000 schoolchildren from throughout the metropolis. For the reason that it was slated to open up in December 2020 and was delayed by the pandemic, it developed on a partnership with an founded cultural venue, the Bangalore Worldwide Centre, to keep on line talks that showcased unique features of its selection. It also held on the internet exhibitions, amid them one particular that includes the artist KG Subramanyan, who died in 2016. “Digital has been a person of the presents of Covid. MAP did a great task,” states Suhanya Raffel, director of Hong Kong’s M+, which has collaborated with the museum on workshops.

Yet for all that, the practical experience of art in a physical room is unparalleled, which is what can make the opening of MAP so enjoyable. Wandering by Seen/Invisible, it is feasible to ponder the woman perception by a sequence of images of gentlemen taken by a woman photographer, Indu Antony, with their mundus (sarongs) folded previously mentioned the knee in a manner couple Indian women of all ages could imagine carrying out the clustering of these bared male knees and calves will make them threatening and lewd and harks back to a childhood trauma.

Another important exhibition attributes the images of Jyoti Bhatt, far better regarded as a painter. His black and white photographs of village women of all ages portray the walls of their huts with elaborate murals have some of the vibrancy of Satyajit Ray’s early films, which located natural beauty amid the poverty of rural Bengal. In just one photograph, a female in Rajasthan, not content with a stunning mural on the partitions of her hut, is witnessed painting polka dots on the loved ones cow.

A photograph taken in India shows a woman standing with her back to the camera, printing a dotted pattern on the skin of a cow; the backdrop is a wall decorated with a patterned mural
Jyoti Bhatt, ‘A lady from the Meena group decorating a bullock for the Govardhan festival’ (Rajasthan) (1969)

1 exits and enters MAP through a courtyard that at the moment features gorgeous operate by British sculptor Stephen Cox. The hanging 1,200kg gray statues made of Indian basalt, which have a lifelike glow accomplished by getting oil poured above them, look to meld Cox’s love of Egypt with the temple icons of southern India (the artist has a studio in a temple town in Tamil Nadu). Intoxicated by the sight of these Indian-Egyptian yoginis, as regal as Isis, 1 methods back again out on to the relentless honking of Bengaluru’s streets, which leaves one doubly grateful for this sophisticated new house in which to enjoy art.

By Indana