Bengaluru: In a city where watering-holes, nightclubs and malls serve as the chief attractions to outsiders and locals alike, there’s a crying need for a space that reflects our vibrant art and culture scene. Abhishek Poddar, whose keen eye for black-and-white photography is well-known through his gallery Tasveer, is poised to bring about just such a transformation. Through his own unwavering passion as a collector, he has already made art a talking point among Bengalureans. This passion has reached new heights, for Poddar, under the aegis of the Tasveer Foundation, is collaborating with the Karnataka Tourism Ministry and the Department of Kannada and Culture to revamp Venkatappa Art Gallery.
A Manjit Bawa painting occupies pride of place above the large desk at his classy corner office in SUA House, where Poddar sits amid a sea of eye-popping art, to discuss MAP, the Museum of Art and Photography, along with Nathaniel Gaskell, the go-to man for the project. A mammoth undertaking, it will bring the remarkable spectrum of Indian art into the city’s mindspace. A first-of-its-kind initiative, this project has the government providing access to the location and granting the necessary permissions, while Poddar brings in the finances and the expertise required to give Venkatappa Art Gallery the boost it needs. Located in the heart of the city, the government -run art space will, through MAP, be transformed into a vibrant culture space that will set the trend for other Public Private Partnership makeovers for similar art endeavours across the country.
Poddar is visibly excited as he talks about his plans, which begin with renovating and adding to the existing architecture of the space. "The idea is not just to bring people who are interested in the arts to look at the museum," he explained. "It's about bringing in people who aren't interested and getting them to engage with it." Private galleries flourish across the city, but remain mostly inaccessible to the public and little has been done to generate large-scale interest and outreach programmes in India's extensive artistic traditions among schools and other focus groups.
Technology will play its role in this, Poddar is looking at digitizing the written content, which works both ways, because it will also help keep track of what the museum contains. "If there's someone out there who owns something similar and can tell us a little bit about it, he or she can upload that information as well," he explained.
Dynamism is all-important, as Poddar puts it: "Why would you go to the same movie again and again?" The gallery will encompass the spectrum of Indian art, from pre and post modern art to folk and tribal traditions, textiles, photography and popular culture. The multi-crore project also includes the setting up of a library, a state of the art auditorium for performances and film screenings, a cafe and restoration labs, too. Architect Soumitro Ghosh, who designed Tasveer, will work with Poddar on revamping the space.
Located in the heart of the city, a two-minute drive from M.G. Road and Church Street Metro Stations, the Gallery is a wonderful starting point, he believes, to establishing Bengaluru's first museum district. The fact that the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum and the Bangalore Museum flank the gallery on both sides, only puts this vision well within reach, feels Poddar.
“An exhibition can change the way you see a particular art form," said Poddar, whose own passion was ignited when he was a 14 year old in the Doon School. His Eureka moment! The principle behind a collection that is constantly evolving is to ensure that the locals keep coming back. "Tourists are going to visit the place once, it's the Bengalurean we're looking at, we want them to come in every week for the talks we hold and as often as they can for the shows."
The re-invented Venkatappa Art Gallery of the future is a project that art aficionado Poddar believes will be duplicated a thousandfold. And perhaps, inspire another 14 year old to emulate this master of the arts....