National Museum Director-General B R Mani says 10-15 events are organised annually at the museum. “But in the last few years, none have exceeded 200 artefacts, that too celebrated ones from India and the British Museum. It’s the first time that the British Museum has sent such a large number of objects (124). And they are very hopeful that in future we will have even better coordinated efforts for such exhibitions in India or the UK.”
The exhibition is supported by curatorial walks, lectures and educational activities especially for the young, such as stone tool-, Harappan seal- and bead-making, currency design, scroll painting, clay moulding, blindfold photography and sculpture-making.
Even as the exhibition has drawn appreciation, questions have been raised over the omission of some objects that were part of the installations in Mumbai. These include the Townley Discobolus, the Discobolus in Zhongshan Suit by Jianguo Sui of China, Unicode by L N Tallur and two Japanese scroll illustrations from Teikan Zusetsu (Illustrated Mirror of Emperors). Referring to Mani’s explanation of logistical problems and the objects being “too bulky”, art critic Meera Menezes questioned the decision, in The Wire, as a possible “form of official censorship”. The curators of the exhibition were not available for comment.
However, the omissions haven’t dimmed audience responses. Venu Vasudevan, Mani’s predecessor, described the collection as a rare event. “For India, it’s very significant because we are seeing some of the most beautiful objects from the British Museum. Also, the strength of collaboration in terms of how you place seemingly unconnected images together to take a narrative form is a learning experience.”
The event should inspire Indian museums to collaborate, he feels. “They don’t talk to each other. And here museums are talking to each other across continents,” he says.