Participating artists: Atul Bhalla, Jitish Kallat, Manish Nai, Mithu Sen, Prajakta Potnis, Ranbir Kaleka, Reena Kallat, Rohini Devasher, Sahej Rahal and Shilpa Gupta
In January 2018, the Museum will complete 10 years since it opened to the public in 2008 after a major restoration that took 5 years. In March 2017 the Museum completed 160 years since it was first opened to the public by Lord Canning in 1857. Inspired by these important dates, we have conceptualised an exhibition that takes its cue from the earliest impulses to establish the Museum and have juxtaposed it with our ongoing engagement with the prevailing 'environment'. Nature and Science were the founding principles of the Museum and are as significant today as they were then. However the lens through which we view both has changed radically. Nature traditionally was seen as a celebration of the divine and was sacralised and ritualised. Many of those values have been compromised or rejected as industrialisation and consumption have threatened older rituals and modes of thought. Science was the instrument through which one observed and made sense of the world. It held out the possibility of endless hope. Today Artificial Intelligence is seen more as a threat than a remedy. In the 19th century science and nature represented certainty and objectivity. Those assumptions have given way to more subjective and inclusive modes of thought. But we are constantly challenged by nature and science to redefine who we are and the value systems we wish to privilege.
We have invited ten of our foremost artists whose practice includes an interest in nature and science or consumption and degradation as process and product, to respond to these ideas and to explore the much debated Age of the Anthropocene and its impact on the environment and the effects on biodiversity. The exhibition endeavours to articulate a visual vocabulary that addresses these issues. Each artist has explored a different theme such as alienation, pollution, destruction of biodiversity, unnatural divisions, mutations and distortions, the politics of water and waste and the destruction of landscapes and rivers. Is healing and redemption possible? What does the future hold? The exhibition invites viewers to form their own conclusions and share these with the Museum in a dialogue that will continue for the length of the exhibition through many activities and discussions.
Established in 1857 as the Government Central Museum of Natural History, Geology, Archaeology and Economic Products, the Museum’s original collection included natural history specimens, archaeological artefacts and geological materials. However, many of the artefacts, including sculptures, coins and taxidermied animals were given to the erstwhile 'Prince of Wales Museum' now Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, the 'Haffkine Institute', Parel, the ‘Reay Industrial Museum’ now the Mahatma Phule Museum, Pune and the 'Government Central Museum', Nagpur to enable them to start their Museums. The Museum retains a small but significant natural history collection as well as a rich archive that documents its early efforts at displaying natural history specimens. Interestingly it won a gold medal at the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition, London for specimens of dried fish and fishing nets