Kolkata has had a happy tryst with artists over the decades. Many have made the city their home, being content to live in a place friendly to the idea of art, to the idea that aesthetics can play very important roles in our lives.
To display art, one needs galleries. The city does have quite a few galleries, but none can fulfill the place of a truly modern international gallery, with large enough spaces, pleasing architecture and, importantly too, where foolproof security can be arranged. In 2001, the first exhibition of Picasso paintings took place in Delhi and Mumbai but not in the city of art lovers, Kolkata, because the international organisers felt that the exacting standards of security that international exhibitions like that one demanded could not be arranged for in the galleries in the city.
A new centre of art comes into being
Soon, all these concerns are going to be more than addressed. For a few days back, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee laid the foundation stone of the first state-of-the-art museum of modern art in the country, and which when completed would be one of the best in the world. The breathtaking design of the museum, called Kolkata Museum of Modern Art (KMOMA) has been created by the highly celebrated international architecture firm, Herzog & de Meuron (HdM). It will be located in Rajarhat, on a 10-acre piece of land.
The chief minister at the opening ceremony on November 14, 2013
The genesis of the idea goes back to 2008, when an agreement was signed between the trustees of KMOMA and Harry Gugger, partner, Herzog & de Meuron, who will head the Kolkata project. KMOMA is a tripartite venture between the government of West Bengal, the government of India and the private sector. It will cost approximately Rs 410 crore ($82 million).
Mamata Banerjee is the chief patron of KMOMA, BM Khaitan, chairman of Eveready Industries, is the chairman, and Rakhi Sarkar, well-known art connoisseur and director of CIMA Art Gallery, is the managing trustee.
The museum is going to encompass the huge diversity of modern art that represents India, from the late-18th century to the contemporary times.
Artist’s impression of KMOMA
KMOMA has a two-pronged objective
>> Collection, preservation and exhibition of fine art objects (that is, paintings and sculpture), both from India and abroad, dating from the late 18th century to the contemporary times.
>> The promotion of art education and research.
Though primarily conceived as an art museum, KMOMA has a much wider objective – to become a cultural hub on a grand scale, free from any parochial agenda.
The Kolkata Museum of Modern Art has been envisaged as a living, evolving art community where creativity in its many forms can converge.
Aspects of architecture and design
• Indian temple architecture has inspired the designers to create a structure whose design is an ideal blend of the east and the west, as well as a synthesis of tradition and modernity.
• From outside, the nine-storied structure looks like massive blocks stacked one upon the other.
• From the top to the bottom, the levels become smaller as they converge to the top.
• The structure also spreads out in the front in a sloping form.
• As seen from outside, steps going from the bottom to the top inform the middle of the structure.
• Its façade forms a screen, recalling the stone filigree of traditional Indian architecture, which will allow natural light to filter in and create a contemplative ambience.
KMOMA has been designed to have two distinctive portions – a Culture Centre and an Academic Wing.
The Centre Centre is envisaged to be a meeting ground of different tastes and temperaments – of creative people like artists, filmmakers, photographers, musicians, writers, theatre people and other such, as well as of people in general, from families to students to the elderly.
The Academic Wing is a place which would see interdisciplinary research and the dissemination of knowledge about Indian art and culture, and would become a centre of expertise where visitors can experience and learn about Indian art and its trans-Asian connections as well as connections with the world at large.
KMOMA will house a national gallery focusing on Indian art, and an international gallery representing art from the west and the Middle East, and also from the Far East.
• In going with its stature as a museum of modern art, KMOMA boasts of a pentacolour logo, with K-M-O-M-A in black, green, blue, magenta and yellow, respectively.
• It is a visual embodiment of KMOMA as an inspiring, living art community where the imagination has plenty of room to flourish.
• All the three primary colours are part of the logo.
• The beautiful colour palette reflects the fact that India is a land of vivid colours.
• The colours are transparent, as is evident where the letters overlap, signifying KMOMA’s openness to the world of ideas and to the need to change and innovate continuously.
• The overlapping letters reflect the interconnectedness of creative expressions all over the world.
• The ‘K’, standing for ‘Kolkata’ has been done in a contrasting opaque black colour – it anchors the logo as well as highlights the location of the museum in India and its weighty tradition.
The designers - Herzog & de Meuron
The eponymous firm, Herzog & de Meuron, was founded in 1978 in Basel, Switzerland, where it is still based, by architects and fellow students in architecture school, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. They are the recipients of many honours, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal.
Jacques Herzog (L) and Pierre de Meuron (R)
The firm boasts of many well-known architects like Harry Gugger, Christine Binswanger, Robert Hösl, Ascan Mergenthaler, Stefan Marbach, Wolfgang Hardt, David Koch and Markus Widmer.
It is famous all over the world for many iconic creations, some of which are the…
• Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest because of its design, which was the main stadium of the 2008 Beijing Olympics
• Tate Modern art gallery in London, which is Britain's national gallery of international modern art
• Allianz Arena football stadium in Munich, built for the 2006 FIFA World Cup
• M H de Young Memorial Museum, a fine arts museum in San Francisco
• Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis, Minnesota state, USA
Beijing National Stadium
Tate Modern, London
Allianz Arena, Munich
M H de Young Memorial Museum, San Fransisco
A new landmark
Kolkata Museum of Modern Art is soon going to be an iconic landmark not only in India, but also in the world. Its marvellous architecture is going to draw tourists from all over to see the best of modern art that especially India and Asia, and the world as well, has to offer. For the state, a new tourist attraction, that too which is to be one of the best in India, opens up too.