In the first of a two-part series on Mumbai's art scene, we understand how an art course by the Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum, is encouraging serious and interested art enthusiasts across faculties to appreciate and benefit from the city's diverse art landscape
Dr Tasneem Zakaria Mehta Managing Trustee & Honorary Director, Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum
Q. What was the reason to introduce such a course? Who, according to you, will benefit from it?
Mumbai boasts of a vibrant contemporary art and cultural scene, but there is little scope for those seriously interested in the subject to gain the kind of knowledge required to break into this field. In view of this lacuna, the Museum began a one-year PG Diploma in Modern and Contemporary Indian Art in 2012. Over the past four years, the participants have included engineers, copy-writers, film-makers, photographers, collectors, and come from a variety of backgrounds, like IT, accounting, architecture; we've even had some practicing artists! I can proudly say that each has continued their engagement with art in some measure; some have even gone on to join prestigious Masters programmes in art and architecture in India and abroad.
Students participate in a special walkthrough of Atul Dodiya's, 7000 Museums: A Project for the Republic of India with Himanshu Kadam, Senior Assistant Curator (second left) at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum, Byculla.
Q. In a nutshell, what can interested candidates expect from this course?
The course aims to introduce participants to modern and contemporary Indian art, and to the 'ways of seeing' the different developments chronologically since 1850. Through a carefully planned programme that merges the study of the visual and theory, we try to provide a well-rounded appreciation of the beginnings of modern art and its transition into the contemporary.
Students examine a work by Hema Upadhyay at her solo show at Chemould, Prescott Road
Q. Who can apply for this course? What are the long-term benefits of attending such a course, even for someone without a background in art appreciation?
The course is open to all those seriously interested in art, or who wish to make a committed transition to this field. Through in-depth discussions and interactions with renowned faculty, specially organised gallery and studio visits, and artists and curator interactions, we hope that the students will build up a visual and theoretical vocabulary, a familiarity with the art scene so that they will be valuable additions to art and cultural institutions in the city.
A lot of museums are actively expanding and hiring for their new programming; there are private museums coming up in India as well. For those interested in continuing their engagement with the contemporary, galleries and auction houses are great opportunities, or working as journalists for online magazines and press. Also, corporates are developing an interest in making collections.
Students and public attend a lecture by Dr Rupert Richard Arrowsmith on the work of artist Angelo da Fonseca at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum Education Centre
Q. Who are some of the experts who will be visiting faculty?
The course faculty comes from the top art institutions in the country: Dr Jyotindra Jain,
Dr Kavita Singh and Shukla Sawant from JNU, New Delhi; Dr Sanjoy Malik from Santiniketan, Kolkata; Dr Ratan Parimoo, Dr Deepak Kannal, BV Suresh from MSU, Vadodara; apart from independent art practioners, critics, writers and gallerists, including Gayatri Sinha, Girish Shahane, Abhay Sardesai, Arshiya Lokhandwala and Mortimer Chatterjee. Each faculty member lectures for approximately eight to nine hours over the weekend on their topic of expertise, bringing in a new perspective and a wealth of specialist knowledge. In an attempt to make these scholars and experts more accessible to the Museum's visitor, we conduct public lectures on the Saturday evening of their module.
Course students interact with (foreground, seated, left-right) curator-writer Gitanjali Dang, CAMP's Ashok Sukumaran, artist Sharmistha Ray, and Elise Foster Vander Elst of Mumbai Art Map at Sharmishta's Bellevue Brunch
Q. What are the other courses (short and long-term) that the Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum intends to introduce in the coming months? What is the intent for it?
The course was begun in keeping with the Museum's objective of imparting world-class educational programming to the people of the city. It ties in well with our extensive contemporary art exhibitions and outreach programs. The Museum aims to offer short-term online courses in the near future that will have a wider reach. We hope to conduct courses in curatorial studies and museum management but they will be shorter, in-depth programmes.
Gallery visit at Clark House Initiative, with (left) artist Naresh Kumar and curator Sumesh Sharma
Q. Are there any other art/non-art related exhibitions/events that the visitor to the museum can look forward
to in 2015?
We begin this year with a series of shows with some of India's most exciting contemporary artists; we have just ended a show with Atul Dodiya and are gearing up for our next with CAMP, which opened on February 22. Since 2014, we have begun special programmess in music with the National Streets for Performing Arts, theatre with Junoon, monthly adult workshops related to contemporary crafts, like comic illustration and photography, special summer workshops and monthly free activities for families, evening lectures with artists, curators and writers; the list is endless. We are also happy to announce a new website, which allows visitors to plan their visit to the Museum. We are also very active on Facebook and Twitter, and have a dedicated subscription list. We also plan on introducing a new film programme that looks at cinema from around India and the world.