Who are we as a nation and where do we come from? At a private dinner party at Dame Jillian Sackler’s home, to raise awareness for the new Museum of Art and Photography in Bangalore, we were happy to be talking about a different democracy. India, an old country populated by the young, has a rich history but a paucity of museums. Surrounded by the museum quality art in Dame Jillian Sackler’s living room, we were reminded: Art is our heritage and our legacy. Toward that end, Sackler introduced Abhishek Poddar, who is spearheading the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) in Bangalore India, geared towards the 65 percent of the country under the age of 30.
“The Museum of Art and Photography will be the largest private museum in South India but more importantly, it will be the first museum in India with 21st century museum outreach and public programs,” Jonathan Marder told us. “Abhishek has donated the first seven million dollars and the first 7,000 objects, with his family. But, it’s not enough for one man. He needs help with this project. There are Indians here who have already given collections and donations. And there’s tremendous support in India. They’ve broken ground and in two years they plan to open doors.”
The Honourable Nirupama Menon Rao (former Foreign Secretary of India and Ambassador to The United States, China, and Sri Lanka), now living in Bangalore, (1 1/2 times larger than New York) told the room, “We are a 5,000 year old civilization and a culture that has stretched across the ages and defined us as a country, provided us identity, context and with meaning of what we are as Indians. The museum will provide India’s young generation with a sense of belonging, identity, and hope about what it means to be a citizen of the world’s largest democracy.”
“In the first few decades of India, other things were more important [than art], but it’s time we started changing things,” Poddar said. He started collecting when he was 16. “Before we knew it, the family had amassed a fairly large collection. Museums around the world were borrowing the collection, but in India, nobody was paying attention. That’s when we thought it was time to give something back.”
The cause is a natural fit for Dame Sackler, whose eponymous galleries and museums dot the world. She founded the first modern museum in China, The Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archeology, in a similar national climate. “The Chinese government was very interested in science and technology, but not so much art,” she told Hamptons.com. “They did not understand why it would be useful, particularly modern art. But, I was giving then a gift and they accepted. They now realize how important it is. Modern art is very difficult to understand. At first glance it may seem not very interesting, but there’s usually incredible meaning behind it. And from 2011 to 2015, they were opening museums in China on an average of one a day. Abhishek wants to do the same thing for India.”