Sunday, February 6, 2022

Kerala Museum Goes Digital!


KM-MNF_GA&C_Flying Horses, Sleepy Tigers and Colossal Crows
From Flying Horses, Sleepy Tigers and Colossal Crows

From a time when one could access art only on the walls of the white cube to a time when it has become easier to access with a few taps of your fingertips, art and technology have come a long way. Google Arts and Culture is a platform where one can access almost all exceptional museums and galleries with its high-definition images where one can view all artworks up and close like never before. Our very own Kerala Museum has joined those ranks, the first of its kind from our zone and what makes it even more accessible is that it is bilingual taking into account the regional audience as well. Thanks to the recent partnership between Kerala Museum and Google Arts and Culture.

The virtual exhibition was inaugurated and opened by the esteemed Chief Guest, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament of Thiruvananthapuram, on 22 Jan 2022. Other session speakers were Dr. Venu Vasudevan, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Kerala, Prof. K.T. Ravindran, Urban Designer, Trustee of Madhavan Nayar Foundation, Prof. Gulammohammed Sheikh, Artist in Conversation Discussant, Prof. Anshuman Das Gupta, Artist in Conversation Moderator and the Museum Director, Aditi Nayar.

Over two hundred artworks from the Kerala Museum Madhavan Nayar Foundation Collection are on view on Google Arts & Culture from the comfort of your home on your devices.

Virtual opening on 22 Jan 2022
image: Kerala Museum Instagram

Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament and Chief Guest at the launch of the Kerala Museum on Google Arts & Culture said:

It is a delight to launch the Madhavan Nayar Foundation’s Kerala Museum, a repository of the state and nation’s artistic genius, on a global platform like Google Arts & Culture. In addition to the use of the latest in technology, I deeply appreciate the effort that has gone into making the digital collection available in Malayalam and English. Such measures showcase the foundational stories of our country and culture, and remind us that the vitality of collaborations depends on a plurality of conversations.

Ten Digital Exhibits

Kerala Museum has developed ten specially curated virtual exhibits for online visitors. They tell the story of India’s most prominent art movements in the 20th Century, notably The Bengal School and Santiniketan, the Bombay Progressives and the Baroda School. The digital experiences explore the practice of Indian artists and artist collectives against the backdrop of the nation's historical and cultural atmosphere.

Diversity and Individuality: Experiments in 1960’s Calcutta: Speaks about the establishment, evolution and progress of the Society of Contemporary Artists that laid the foundation for a strong printmaking tradition in the 1960s. The collective celebrated its Golden jubilee with an exhibition in Kolkatta in 2009.

Flying Horses, Sleeping Tigers, and Colossal Crows: Objects of Admiration and Allegory: Fantastical beasts and birds inhabit strange, whimsical worlds taking the viewers into an unbelievable and yet authentic realm where one could see and imagine what might lie beyond our “normal” powers of perception.

Emergence of Indian Modernism: Santiniketan and the Bengal School: Santiniketan and Bengal School of Arts that moulded and expanded the Indian art scene during the early 20 century and added flavor and passion to the Nationalist Movement in the fight against the British Rule is focussed here. The era of Rabindranath, Abanindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy, Nandalal Bose, K G Subramanyan, Benode Bihari Mukherjee, Ram Kinkar Baij, Asit Haldar and the other veterans.

The Bombay Progressives: Breaking New Ground at the Dawn of India’s Independence: The Bombay Progressives at the dawn of a Free India and their effort to modernize the new Indian art scene with the Progressive Arts Group forming and disbanding within a year and yet having a lasting impact is what’s showcased here. Stalwarts like MF Hussain, F N Souza, S H Raza, H A Gade, Akbar Padamsee, Krishen Khanna, and Ram Kumar enriched the art scenario.

Rama Varma, Artist Thampuran: Explores his works and his contribution to the Kerala’s art heritage establishing the renowned Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts in Mavelikkara. Following his illustrious father’s style and his contributions as a teacher and activist, he has left behind an impressive legacy.

Women Artist in the Kerala Museum Collection: Includes Mangala Bai Thamburatti- sister of Raja Ravi Varma, Aparna Caur, Naina Dalal, Rini Dhumal, Jayasri Burman, Prabha and Rekha Rodwittiya exploring and articulating the gender issues and feminine intentions. I would love to see this collection grow and am sure that it would do so under the able hands of Aditi Nayar.

Travancore Painters: Within and Beyond the Court: This story mentions the court painters like the illustrious Raja Ravi Varma, Mangala Bai (who worked as a “hobby” because of her gender), Madhava Warrier, Sekhara Warrier, Neelakantan Pillai. Not to mention the effort of Ravi Varma to mass-produce his works that helped change the national aesthetic and artistic sentiments.

For Some, For All: Pioneers of Printmaking in India: From Raja Ravi Varma who mass-produced his works to Nandalal Bose who introduced it in Kalabhavan to Somnath Hore who influenced the Society of Contemporary Artists like Sanat Kar and Lalu Prasad Shaw who paved vital inroads in printmaking in the 60s.

Rhythm, Flow and Line: Where Dance and Painting Meet: Sudhir Katsgir and Shiavax Chavda’s energetic and rhythmic strokes capture the classical beauty in its dance forms. Though there are only a few works in this section, it turned out to be one of my favourites for its brevity, simplicity, and packed energy. One of my favourites among the ten.

Eyes, Windows into the Soul: The Maya of Sanat Kar: One of the founding members of the Society of Contemporary Artists he revolutionized printmaking by using techniques like cardboard intaglio and sun mica printmaking. The focus of his work was the wide-open soulful eyes and he explored the theme of “Maya” – illusion. 

Reverie - Raja Ravi Varma/ Study of Cave No:2, Ajanta Caves - Nandalal Bose
image:Kerala Museum

Get up close with ultra-high resolution images

Many hidden gems of modern Indian art, like The Portrait of a Man by Lalu Prasad Shaw can now be viewed in never before seen definition thanks to Gigapixel technology, a powerful photo-capturing process, which has enabled the highest ever resolution image of this feature. Viewers can explore the painting in extraordinary detail and experience it far beyond what is visible to the naked eye, such as the precise geometric pencil strokes Shaw uses to provide depth in his paintings. Nandalal Bose and Raja Ravi Varma acknowledged as amongst the Navaratnas of Indian Art, are amongst the treasures of the Kerala Museum that have been digitized with Gigapixel technology. Nandalal’s ink drawing of The Buddha’s mother Maya (Untitled) is a study of Cave No. 2 at the Ajanta Caves and sheds light on his keen interest in frescoes and their influence on his distinctive visual style. Varma’s Reverie shows how the master skillfully uses the scumbling technique to render the fine translucency of the cotton Kerala kasavu saree.

These immersive online stories can also be experienced on the Kerala Museum’s website,

Special mention to the earnest efforts of Smt. Geeta Nair for the translations from English to Malayalam. A postgraduate in English Language and Literature and 30 years of teaching experience, Smt. Nayar has translated several works from Malayalam to English and vice versa.

Kerala Museum-Edapally-Kochi
image: Kerala Museum

About Kerala Museum

The Kerala Museum is located at the heart of Kochi city in Kerala. Managed by the Madhavan Nayar Foundation, its core objective is to provide interactive, engaging and experiential arts and history-based learning.

The Museum is a vibrant beacon of the arts, powered by in-house curation and collaborations with NGOs working across a spectrum of social issues. Through its programs, it aims to actualize the potential of the “Museum as an instrument of social change”, thereby influencing critical thinking and tolerance towards the world around us, and better citizenship. With a 37 year-long track record as a non-governmental initiative providing authentic learning experiences in history, fine arts and performing arts, the Museum has hosted over half a million visitors and ignited the minds of school children from over 5000 schools from all over India.

Google Arts & Culture

Google Arts and Culture was launched in 2011 as Google Arts Project with virtual art tours, high definition close-up views of artworks and artifacts of cultural organizations and institutions across the world, even landmarks and streets, audio-visual contents, pet portraits powered by AI, Games, etc. You can browse by artists, art movements, historic events and even mediums.

National Museum-New Delhi, National Gallery of Modern Art, Archeological Survey of India, Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation, Dastkari Haat Samiti, Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian’s National Museum, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Musee d’Orsay, Museo Frida Kahlo, Tate Britain, Tokyo National Museum, State Russian Museum and many more are available for view.

Google Arts & Culture puts the collections of more than 2,000 museums at your fingertips. It is an immersive way to explore art, history and the wonders of the world, from Van Gogh’s bedroom paintings to the women’s rights movement and the Taj Mahal.

The Google Arts & Culture app is free and available online for iOS and Android. Their team has been an innovation partner for cultural institutions since 2011. They develop technologies that help preserve and share culture and allow curators to create engaging exhibitions online and offline, inside museums.

To sum it up, this is what Aditi Nayar, Director of Kerala Museum has to say:

Our new partnership with Google Arts & Culture creates an excellent opportunity to inspire and delight a global audience, and illustrate our collection's importance. To further expand our reach, and to make the collection uniquely accessible, we have made it available in English and Malayalam. This will be the first collection of its kind from Kerala to harness the Google Arts & Culture platform’s multilingual capabilities, enabling users and learners, whether on a large screen or a mobile device, to intuitively search and experience art in Malayalam and English. The ultra-high-resolution digitization of almost two hundred of our artworks using Gigapixel technology has created a resource-bank on modern Indian art the likes of which exists nowhere else. We look forward to inviting students and scholars from across Kerala, India and the world, to experience our collection’s highlights and hidden gems, offline and online.

Aditi Nayar

Aditi Nayar: Born in Cochin, educated at St.Xavier’s College, Bombay, Chelsea College of Art and then at the Wimbledon College of Art in London, Aditi Nayar, the Director of Kerala Museum and the Founder’s, R Madhavan Nayar, grand-niece is also an artist whose works range across media from video and audio installations to kinetic sculpture, latex, fiberglass, rope and oil on canvas.

For those who would like to contact and visit the Kerala Museum:

Madhavan Nayar Foundation, Pathadipalam, Edappally, Kochi
Ph: 0484 4020506/2541768
Mob: +91 8129051881


sathish said...

hey thanks for that lot and lots of information!

dee Nambiar said...

This is so cool. Love the idea of digital access to museums' collections! Love the bilingual aspect too.
Thank you for letting us know about this, Deepa. :)

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