The art of keeping art alive
With silence being a prerequisite in these no-talking zones, it is hard to have conversations about growing disenchantment with friends, in an effort to stay awake
Do you remember your last visit to a museum in our country? Well, don’t we all cradle memories of field trips to these institutions? Though initially masquerading as a distraction from regular school hours, it doesn’t take long to realise that you have been put through the ultimate test of how best to stifle yawns without being caught out. With silence being a prerequisite in these no-talking zones, it is hard to have conversations about growing disenchantment with friends, in an effort to stay awake.
As if that is not enough, an assignment to pen down one’s observations in 200 words would surely follow once back. Are such experiences from childhood what deter us from undertaking any museum tours once the cloak of adulthood wraps us in its clutches? Or perhaps it is the dull conditions that prevail within these spaces that do not allow us to list this visit as an option even on a boring Sunday?
This is indeed a sad state of affairs for India, one of the oldest civilisations with a wealth of art to proudly showcase to the world. Schools offer no understanding of art history, with art being reduced to lessons in colouring pretty pictures with crayons that slowly evolve into paints. World-class museums housing our national treasures could have compensated for this neglect of art education, by instilling pride in cultural icons that walked our land. After all, don’t we have periodic reminders of our political legends, in the form of statues that stand tall on every street? Then surely it is not impossible to treat our art too with the respect it deserves by investing in magnificent foundations to rest on!
Private museums may have taken it upon themselves to salvage the situation by creating exceptional infrastructure to exhibit their collections, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi is one such. However, with our country’s precious art and artefacts that date back to antiquity being in the possession of the government, the duty to not just safeguard them, but to turn them into sparkling attractions for the world to witness, lies on the shoulders of policymakers.
Let us bring our cultural heritage out of ignored spaces. Let us build our Louvres. Let our children look forward with delight to the customary school excursion to the one place which can hold the promise of a million discoveries for their tender hearts—the museum in all its glory!
Jitha Karthikeyan is an artist and curator, passionate about making art accessible to the larger public