First-of-Its-Kind Bihar Museum Biennale Depicts How Art Landscape Can Evolve Post-Pandemic

Simantini Dey
·3-min read

Museums are places of ideas, memories, beauty and truth. They are wormholes to other times and worlds, to which we can only teleport ourselves through strolls of long, well-lit museum galleries. As a tribute to this legacy, the Bihar Museum organised a seven-day ‘Museum Biennale’, the first of its kind that brought together museums from various parts of the world to display their art and artefacts. The event came to an end on Sunday.

The event was organised in a hybrid version — both physical and virtual — and allowed patrons easy access to conferences, masterclasses, museum tours and panel discussions on a variety of topics related to art. Beautifully curated, it showed the immense possibilities for the art landscape to evolve and grow after the pandemic, if innovative and engaging ways are introduced to capture the attention of the audience.

For instance, on Sunday, one could join a virtual tour of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, as well as the Piramal Museum of Art, Mumbai. The final masterclass of the event focused on ‘Bhasha, Media and Bihari Memory’, while the penultimate one discussed vernacular modernity.

The biennale dealt with several pertinent topics over the past few days, from exploring the visions for future museums to addressing the undeniable ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the entire landscape of art.

The key highlights of the event included sessions on ‘Elements of a Museum’ that explored the change of museums from storage spaces of static artefacts to a centre of cultural exchange, and ‘Perceptions of Art’ that examined the sensory nature of art, its need to interact and exist in conjunction of the viewers, the historical traditions they uphold and give insights on.

The virtual masterclasses took place for four days between March 25 and 28, focusing on restoration of art and storytelling through dance, writing biographies, cinema critiquing, cultural appreciation, and writing in Indian languages with a specific focus on the rich tapestry of vernacular dialects. They offered an in-depth learning opportunity for art and culture enthusiasts as leading exponents from creative industries shared insights into their creative process and their craft highlights.

There were exhibitions that focused on Ramayana and those that depicted the art and artefacts that uphold the tribal history of our country.

Organised by the Bihar Museum and the Department of Arts, Culture and Youth Affairs, the biennale was inaugurated by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on March 22, the day that is celebrated as Bihar Divas. Kumar said, “I am delighted that the Bihar Museum Biennale is being inaugurated on the auspicious occasion of Bihar diwas. The making of Bihar Museum has been a journey worth chronicling itself as it is the first of its kind museum of international stature and standards in India. It is heartening to see the pioneering work of the museum, including the organisation of the biennale. We must continue our efforts to research, innovate and create opportunities for engaging with local, national and international visitors, offering them an immersive experience of the state’s rich history as well as contemporary cultural heritage.”

The biennale served as a portal for art lovers to access the richness and treasures of Indian museums, while displaying collections from various museums across the world. Some of the prominent international museums which participated in the event are the National Museum of Interventions, Mexico; The Castle Museum in Pszczyna, Poland; National Museum of Colombia; The Liberation War Museum, Bangladesh; and the Sarmaya Art Foundation.