Photo Mail online magazine
brings out special news about
Photography and allied art forms
National/International Photography
Exhibitions, Technique, Product updates
as well as featured reports and

Let us
Discuss, Debate, Define
The Art of Photography

Museum of Photography Bangalore
Suresh Punjabi, Suhag Studio, MAP

A rendezvous of past and future

India’s first digital museum set for launch

During its eventful journey through space and time, art has found itself in a multitude of places ranging from prehistoric caves to digital gadgets. From being standalone specimens in the initial days, the works of art have undergone evolutionary changes in their form and presentation. When Walter Benjamin penned his 1935 essay ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’, he was gazing at a flood of physical copies that affected the ‘aura’ of the ‘original’. Eight decades have elapsed since this path-breaking essay was written. And the mechanical reproduction, which at Benjamin’s time primarily meant printing technology, has given way to much powerful digital tools, where the concept of physical form itself has virtually disappeared. Nevertheless, this technological evolution has made artworks more accessible to the masses. There was a time when valuable paintings and sculptures could be enjoyed only by visiting the museums situated in faraway lands. These works, through their privileged positioning, were meant to be enjoyed only by a section of the society that could afford long-distance travels and pricey tickets. Come the digital era, the idea of museum space itself has remarkably changed. Several museums across the world had already established or were in the process of establishing digital sections when the Covid health crisis swept across the globe. While the pandemic has toppled the lives of millions, it has also opened up new vistas in many fields, including art. ‘Virtual’ has become the new mantra when it comes to interactions in the age of pandemic. Unlike the earlier periods when epidemics like plague or Spanish flu forced people to stay away from each other, the contemporary scenario allows the coming together of people even while they are physically distant from each other, thanks to digital technology. Virtual exhibitions, virtual meetings and virtual interactions have become the order of the day during the Covid crisis. It is at this juncture, the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) is being launched, virtually, before it’s physical launch next year. While usually the physical space precedes the virtual space, the MAP is reversing that concept, by first launching itself as a digital museum.

To mark this India’s first digital museum launch on December 5, the MAP is organising a week-long virtual programme titled ‘Art (is) Life’, besides inaugurating it’s ‘Museums without Borders’ initiative. According to a statement from the founders of MAP, the institution has a collection of over 18,000 artworks, including sculptures, paintings and photographs, predominantly from the Indian subcontinent. The entire collection is categorised into six genres: Pre-modern art, modern & contemporary, photography, folk & tribal, popular culture, and textiles, craft & design. The highlight of MAP is a vast collection of photographs — both historical and contemporary, and on popular culture – which is not common for an Indian museum. Moreover, this photography collection boasts one of the most extensive line-up in the country. This collection has works of 19th century photographers such as Samuel Bourne, John Burke, Francis Frith, William Johnson, Colin Roderick Murray, John Edward Saché, Charles Shepherd, E. Taurines and Raja Deen Dayal; 20th-century prints by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marc Riboud, Martine Franck, Raghu Rai and T.S. Satyan. Contemporary Indian photographers like Dayanita Singh, Abul Kalam Azad, Vivek Vilasini,  and Gauri Gill are also a part of the collection.

“The digital platform will allow MAP to offer curated experiences to the audiences who will be able to interact with the exhibitions from the comfort of their homes at any time,” said the official statement from MAP. Termed as South India’s “first major private art museum”, the MAP, located in Bengaluru, is aiming to bring its collection accessible to diverse viewers. The museum, once launched, will have a five-storey building with galleries, auditorium, research library, education centre, conservation facility and a cafe. According to Abhishek Poddar, the founder-trustee of MAP, their vision has always been to reach out to people from all walks of life and make the collection available to the world. “… Then why should we wait for a physical museum to come up? Launching digitally is the next step for MAP to achieve its agenda of inclusion and accessibility. In challenging times such as these, museums and cultural institutions need to rethink and reinvent themselves to be truly relevant. MAP’s digital launch is the birth of a new museum for a new era,” he said.

While it is appreciable that the founders of MAP are aiming at diverse viewers, it is equally important that they focus on the diversity of artists whom they showcase/promote. As the art market in India continues to be dominated by elite interests and privileged artists, it would be heartening if MAP brings more artists from diverse backgrounds to the fore. Since the MAP comes with a promise of being rooted regionally with a global outreach, there is a scope for regional artists getting represented. This is especially important in the case of photography since there is a very limited representation of regional photographers in the national and international arena and the MAP could change that.

Even though the digital space provides a cost-effective and convenient meeting place for the artists and connoisseurs, this space is still in a nascent stage in India where digital penetration is yet to move beyond smartphone screens. The difference in experiencing an artwork at a museum space and a digital space will vanish for sure with the passage of time and development of virtual reality (VR). However, at the current juncture, taking the pandemic into account, digital exhibitions can be termed more as a stop-gap arrangement, complementing the physical exhibitions scheduled in the upcoming days. In this background, the ‘Museums Without Borders’ initiative launched by the MAP is a step taken in the right direction. Organised in collaboration with 50 international institutions, including the British Museum, Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Morgan Library and Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Vitra Design Museum, and the Rhode School of Design, this initiative will see ‘juxtaposition’ of objects from different collections, in the virtual space. Usually, prized museum pieces are taken across the world for exhibitions. But here, the ‘Museums Without Borders’ is bringing together artworks from distant collections without their physical movement. Initiatives like this could be marking the dawn of a new era where the concept of dimensions, reality, space, and time would be taking new incarnations.

By Joyel K Pious | Published on November 30, 2020


Home » News » A rendezvous of past and future: India’s first digital museum set for launch

Related News

Looking or shooting? A pe(e)p toy by Ray-ban and Facebook to click as you see

By |September 15th, 2021|

Ray-ban Stories sunglasses are built in partnership with Facebook and Ray-Ban’s parent company EssilorLuxottica and are the first product to be produced as a result of a multi-year partnership between the two companies. Ray-Ban Stories will be available in 20 different combinations in classic Ray-Ban styles — Wayfarer, Wayfarer Large, Round, and Meteor — and five colors with a range of lenses including clear, sun, transition, and prescription. Ray-Ban Stories features dual integrated 5-megapixel cameras that are designed to let the wearer capture everyday moments as they happen from a first-person perspective. The dual 5MP camera gives new depth and dimension to the content. It takes high-resolution photos (2592×1944 pixels) and quality video (1184×1184 pixels at 30 frames per second). Camera automatically adjusts to the light around for high-quality captures. One can also attend to calls, listen to music via blue tooth while on the go.

A pause amid the rush | Digital Online Show of Project 365 Tiruvannamalai

By |August 19th, 2021|

The premiere show of Project 365 Tiruvannamalai was shown at the famous Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata, in 2019. Now, a small selection from this whopping collection has now travelled across the continent and is being exhibited at the Magnet Galleries, Melbourne, Australia. Titled, Elements and Fragments, the show was opened to publich on 15th July 2021, however, due to the pandemic third wave lockdown measures, the gallery had to remain shut. In a remarkable effort, the Magnet Galleries have transformed the show into a fully digital 360° format. On World Photography Day, the digital show was unveiled to the public.

Underwater Photography: No Under Estimating It | Susannah Snowden-Smith

By |August 14th, 2021|

On a bright Sunday morning, PhotoMail caught up with the chief documentary photographer on the Godavaya excavation, Susannah Snowden-Smith. What followed was an interesting revelation of the nuances of underwater photography. Living her dream of underwater photography, which she had started thinking about when she was 11 years old, Susannah reached out to a renowned archeologist as early as in her tenth grade. And in a matter of few years, she was on her first 120 feet underwater excavation assignment close to Sedana island Sadana Island in Red Sea, documenting an eighteenth-century ship wreck.

IFA Call for Proposal: Arts Research 2021 – 2022

By |August 10th, 2021|

IFA invites proposals for our Arts Research programme from researchers and practitioners who are interested in undertaking research projects, implemented by IFA. These projects could investigate marginalised or relatively unexplored areas; intend to create spaces for dialogue between theory and practice; offer new readings of artistic practices; and use interdisciplinary approaches to break new conceptual ground, among other things. The programme is open to proposals from individual scholars, researchers, and practitioners, across disciplines. You are eligible to apply if you are an Indian national. 

Millions of Images from Tokyo to your screens in 3 minutes: Olympics 2020

By |August 3rd, 2021|

Amidst all odds and several controversies, Olympics 2020 is going on, without many audiences to cheer and veer the players. The only solace is that millions from across the world are watching it live. The number of online viewers has become more than doubled, with many countries still in lockdown, with the threat of pandemic third-wave closing in fast.

Photographing the Irulas: Young photographer Subeesh Yuva

By |July 31st, 2021|

Subeesh Yuva is an upcoming photographer based in Kozhikode. He enjoys traveling and is a passionate portrait and street photographer. Earlier, he had worked as a designer and an editor. His recent exhibition, CAMERA KOKEL SEARING FLAMES, was showcased at the Lalitha Kala Academy, Calicut, between 24th and 31st March 2020. The show featured his photographs of the Irula community in Attapady. Here is an exclusive interview with Subeesh.

A dream camera for Self-Filming Vloggers: Sony’s ZV-E10

By |July 31st, 2021|

A year after introducing its first camera for vloggers (the fixed-lens ZV-1), Sony has announced the ZV-E10, an interchangeable lens APS-C camera. With a larger sensor and the ability to swap lenses, Sony believes this camera steps up what the ZV-1 started. The Sony ZV-E10 will be available in either black or white and be priced at around Rs. 52000/- for the body only. There is a kit option available that comes with the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens that will cost app. Rs. 59000/-. However, vloggers in India have to wait, for there is still no news about the International availability of this new camera.

Go to Top