THE IDEA that the art scene in Goa is vibrant is an illusion,” says artist-curator Subodh Kerkar. “A few things have happened here of late, and it was nice.” Over the last two-three years, the coastal city has seen a surge in festivals of the arts. Authors and filmmakers have made the city their home, some permanent, others for a few months every year. “But when it comes to a contemporary arts space that is accessible to the common man, the city has none,” says the 56-year-old.
On November 6, Kerkar will launch the 1,500 sq ft Museum of Goa or MOG (which translates into “love” in Konkani) in the quiet village of Pilerne in south Goa. It has been designed by architect Dean D’Cruz.
The museum reflects the need to step away from conventional exhibition models and converge the historical with the contemporary. “The idea first came to me in Berlin five years ago when I was showing my works through ICCR. The curator of the Museum of Asian Art invited me to see his museum. In the middle of ancient works from China, was the installation of Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei. He had created bricks out of compressed teabags. I was taken aback by this juxtaposition,” says Kerkar, “Ten per cent of India speaks English, of which five per cent speaks and reads well, and out of that, a small percentage takes interest in contemporary art. The rest has no idea. This void hit me,” he says.
The ambitious MOG project, which will involve only temporary exhibits, is sprawled across three floors, each gallery dedicated to different art forms, including video and sound installations. Outside, a large garden has been laid for sculptures. Additionally, there will be art classes, lectures as well as documentary film screenings. The team is also planning a corporate art training programme, taking off from the leadership programme module, and art retreats.
A broadcast programme called Kalakirtan will have voice presentations in Konkani (which is being broadcast in the city currently), Marathi, Hindi and English. Lastly, the project will sponsor Rs 1 lakh prize for emerging artists from Goa. Seeking collaborations from artists as well as organisations, MOG is designed more as an institution than just a gallery of objects.
As Kerkar readies his space for the opening, he has in store two back-to-back exhibitions to launch his concept. The first, titled “Gopalapatanam”, will feature 20 artists, including Kerkar’s, and will bring forth his long-term engagement with Goan history, before and after the Portuguese period. “The idea was that I should narrate Goa’s history in a contemporary idiom. I involved other artists and asked them to create works in response to this city’s history,” he says.
Kerkar’s involvement with his hometown reflects in his participation in “Balcao”, a show by Goan artists put together by Delhi’s Dhoomimal Gallery, and at Kochi-Muziris Biennale with “Janela”, in which he explores the cultural relationship between Goa and Kerala. The exhibition has been co-curated by Lila Vincent, Peter Mueller and Sabitha TP, and the participating artists evoke a similar theme — while Delhi-based Pablo Bartholomew’s photographs, taken in Portugal, capture Goans settled in Lisbon, 30-year-old Tahireh Lal presents Sand Castles in the Air, which animates sand from the Goan beaches to make them look as if they are rising and falling, “like a civilisation”.
Mumbai-based Narendra Yadav brings three metaphysical works, one of which is My Sanctum Mother, which takes the image of mother Mary on a lotus as a fusion point of two cultures. The second show is called “Morphology of Archives and will feature 15 international and 15 Indian artists.
As the museum comes together for its upcoming launch, Kerkar even considers hosting an art biennale, much like India’s first and biggest one in Kochi. “Artists cannot sing alone in the desert. They need an audience,” he says.