The Museum of Art and Photography: A Personal Mission for Abhishek Poddar

Abhishek Poddar, a prominent collector and patron of the arts in India, has made significant contributions to the art world. With a passion for South Asian art, craft, and antiquities, Poddar has conglomerate an impressive hodgepodge that includes modern and trendy art and photography. He is moreover the driving gravity overdue the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bengaluru, where he serves as a trustee and has donated the initial leadership souvenir and a substantial portion of his family’s art collection. In wing to his work with MAP, Poddar serves on various boards and committees in India and is a member of the newsy committees of the India-Europe Foundation for New Dialogues and the Lincoln Center Global Newsy Council. In this interview, we’ll delve into Poddar’s life as a collector, philanthropist, and cultural producer for South Asia, as well as his vision for MAP as a hub for the arts and culture of the region.

MAP Bangalore © Iwan Baan

Nikhil Sardana: You have been a collector of art and antiquities since high school. What sparked your interest in art, and how has your approach to collecting evolved over the years?

Abhishek Poddar: I grew up surrounded by art, so it came naturally to me. Our home was filled with wondrous art, and many creative people were part of our lives. My dad was interested in music and architecture, so we had concerts regularly, and musicians like Ravi Shankar, Pandit Jasraj, and Kumar Gandharva performed at our home. We moreover had visitors like Henri Cartier-Bresson in the early ’80s. It wasn’t anything planned; it happened quite naturally. The time I really started spending time with art was in school. I was in boarding school at Doon, and they had a sunny art school. Plane the opportunity to use variegated materials and mediums was something that most places did not offer when then (early ’80s).

There was moreover this unconfined magazine tabbed The Illustrated Weekly of India, which used to have a centre spread on art every issue, and that’s how I learned well-nigh Indian artists like Manjit Bawa, M. F. Husain, Anjolie Ela Menon, Jogen Chowdhury, Ganesh Pyne, and Bikash Bhattacharjee. I must have been 15 when I met Hussain, and that became a lifelong relationship. Manjit Bawa became a dear friend and mentor.

There was no structure or plan to this. It was all serendipity and an interest that led me from one place to another. Along the same time, variegated gurus came into my life who took me in variegated directions. Mapu (Martand Singh) showed me a sunny show tabbed Vishwakarma, which featured fantastic textiles, and that’s how I got interested in textiles. Jyotindra Jain took me towards popular culture, Jagdish Swaminathan towards folk and tribal or living traditions, Dayanita Singh towards photography. I was like a kid in a snacks store, titillating whatever I could in terms of their knowledge, mind, and eye, and that’s how I learned.

MAP Bangalore © Iwan Baan

NS: The Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) is an ambitious project aimed at promoting greater access to South Asian art. What inspired you to take on such a challenging endeavour, and what do you hope to achieve with MAP in the long run

AP: Initially, I didn’t visualize that the Museum of Art and Photography would be such a challenging endeavour, or else I might not have taken it on. However, despite the obstacles we faced, I have found the journey to be incredibly rewarding. Through this project, I have had the opportunity to learn and interreact with so many people, and for that, I am tightly grateful. In fact, the project has wilt far increasingly than just a personal goal or mission, as so many others have joined us in supporting and participating in the effort.

As a child, I was fortunate to have wangle to artists, historians, and scholars, but I moreover recognized that many people in India did not have the same opportunities to engage with art and learn from it. Although there are unconfined works of art in museums wideness India, many of them lack waffly exhibitions, proper catalogues, and sufficient explanations. As a result, outreach and education in the arts have not been widely promoted in India. When I travelled abroad, I saw how variegated the situation was, and I felt that we needed to make art increasingly wieldy in India.

MAP Bangalore © Iwan Baan

Although we did not initially plan to focus on technology, the pandemic forced us to rethink our approach. We realized that technology could help us to make art increasingly widely misogynist and accessible, and we saw the success of this tideway when we held our digital opening. With Bangalore stuff a hub for technology and innovation, we have the opportunity to leverage the expertise of tech companies and engage with the communities they serve.

As for the future of MAP, I honestly could not have predicted where we are now, so I don’t want to make any definitive plans or predictions. Rather, I think it’s important to be responsive to the needs of the polity and to remain unshut to new opportunities and ideas. Ultimately, my goal is not to create something for myself, but to make art increasingly wieldy to all.

MAP Bangalore © Iwan Baan

NS: What is an artists role in society?

AP: I believe that an artist’s role in society is to be a mettlesome person who can convey ideas that others may not be worldly-wise to express. Throughout history, artists have been responsible for many significant movements and innovations, plane if they faced condemnation initially. Unfortunately, in India, art is often viewed merely as a decorative item to invest in, but I think the role of an versifier is much increasingly profound than that. While it may seem that some artists lead a well-appointed life due to upper prices of their work, this is not the specimen for the majority of artists.

MAP Bangalore © Orange & Teal

NS: You have served on advisory committees of several cultural institutions, including the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru. How do you view the role of private collectors in supporting the arts, and what do you believe are the challenges faced by cultural institutions in India today?

AP: As a collector and counselor to cultural institutions, I believe that private collectors in India should do increasingly to support the arts. Many collectors are only interested in art as an investment, rather than seeing it as a responsibility to support artists and cultural institutions. In contrast, collectors in the western world view their role much increasingly deeply. I believe that India needs increasingly private museums and collectors should build collections for museums rather than just ownership art for themselves. Cultural institutions in India, including museums and cultural centres, desperately need the support. As a nation, we need to superintendency increasingly well-nigh the arts and take whoopee to make a change.

MAP Bangalore © Orange & Teal

NS: The pandemic has had a significant impact on the arts and cultural sector worldwide. How has the pandemic affected your work with MAP, and what do you see as the future of the arts in a postpandemic world?

AP: The pandemic was unexpected and had a significant impact on my work with MAP. The delays in the project due to the pandemic made it increasingly expensive as material prices increased and everything had to be renegotiated. It was moreover difficult to build a team during the pandemic as there is a limited supply of arts professionals in the country. Fundraising moreover came to a halt as all the funds were directed towards COVID relief. However, we learned to transmute and found new ways to communicate through digital platforms, which we utilized for our digital launch. This wits taught us that the world doesn’t come to a halt and that new ways of doing things can be found.

In terms of the future of the arts, I believe it will be a hybrid world where both physical and digital experiences will be offered. MAP will be offering both options, as we have seen that people are well-appointed with digital liaison and it provides increasingly convenience. As for arts education, it is the windrow of MAP, and we incorporate education in all our programs, including talks, exhibitions, and outreach programs. The MAP Academy is a significant part of our educational efforts, and we have undertaken three major projects, including the first comprehensive encyclopaedia for Indian art, courses from introductory to wide levels, and an unshortened timeline of Indian art, all of which are misogynist online for free.