Plans for Kolkata Museum of Modern Art: India's answer to Tate Modern?

A major new museum to be built in eastern India is being largely supported by commercial galleries and corporate collections


Ten international architects, including Canadian Frank Gehry and Swiss duo Herzog & de Meuron, have been shortlisted to design an ambitious new museum of modern art, which is set to open in Kolkata (Calcutta), eastern India, in February 2013. The winning architect was set to be announced as we went to press by a seven-member committee headed by Professor S.K. Das of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The 300,000 sq. ft building will rise in Rajarhat, a northern suburb of Kolkata. Construction is to begin in April 2009.

The new Kolkata Museum of Modern Art (KMoMA) will house a collection of Indian art dating from the 19th century to today, with separate galleries for music, photography and cinema.

“We plan to have high-quality exhibitions coming from museums overseas for our international gallery space,” said Rakhi Sarkar, managing trustee of KMoMA and director of the Kolkata-based art gallery CIMA.

“There are no set budgets for acquisitions of work as there are many private individuals willing to donate their collections,” said Ms Sarkar. “A comprehensive permanent collection will gradually emerge. A national selection board will be created to supervise this,” added a KMoMA spokeswoman.

The tripartite public-private partnership between the Indian government, the government of West Bengal and the private sector is considered an innovative venture in India.

The project is budgeted at around INR 5.78bn ($142m), with the state of Bengal providing INR 1.36bn ($34m) and the remainder pledged from central government and the private sector. “There will be a one-off grant from the government,” said Ms Sarkar, but declined to reveal how large this would be.

Sharan Apparao, director of Apparao Galleries in Chennai, welcomed the move: “The [state-run] National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi doesn’t do enough and is tied-down because of red-tape and politics. Non-state run museums are what we need.”

But artist Bharti Kher questioned the development: “Kolkata MoMA sounds amazing if it happens. It is what India needs but I do think that there is a conflict of interests between the private and public sectors. [Private] galleries in India have recently been hugely supportive of programmes that include their artists.”

Trustees of the museum are predominantly Bengali, including the chairman of India tobacco giant ITC, Y.C. Deveshwar, and chairman of battery maker Eveready, B.M. Khaitan.

Both corporations have headquarters in Kolkata and own extensive modern and contemporary Indian art collections. Artists represented in the ITC collection include M.F. Husain and Krishen Khanna. Eveready owns works by Ganesh Pyne, Ganesh Haloi and Jayasri Burman, among others.

A special fundraising auction for KMoMA at Sotheby’s in New York last summer raised over $1.5m.

The shortlisted architects

David Adjaye (UK), Frank Gehry (Canada), Kengo Kuma (Japan), Rafael Moneo (Spain), Renzo Piano (Italy), Kazuyo Sejima (Japan), Yoshio Taniguchi (Japan), Alvaro Siza (Portugal), Santiago Calatrava (Spain) and Herzog & de Meuron (Switzerland)

Source: KMoMA

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'India’s answer to Tate Modern?'