Will there ever be a Tate or Louvre in India?

Manjari Sihare contemplates the possibility of international museum franchises for India

A computer image of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel
Image credit: http://www.yeeeeee.com/2008/07/02/dubai-louvre/

New York: I have always been an avid follower of Delhi based writer and art critic Kishore Singh’s insightful articles in the Indian press about the state of the arts in the country. Mr. Singh is an arts and lifestyle opinion columnist and critic and currently heads exhibitions and publications at Delhi Art Gallery. In one of his latest offerings in the Business Standard, Mr. Singh wrote about the museum-going audiences of India. On a recent trip to Europe, he observed the enthusiasm Indian tourists had for Western museums and the treasures they contained, and questioned their resistance towards museums back home. In his analysis, he blames the Indian government for their lack of ability to market museums in the country, and ponders over the prospect of inviting Western museums like the Tate and Louvre to build franchises here. As I read the article, I was swamped with questions about the infrastructural reality of such an enterprise. Does India have a clear policy to deal with these museums? Art is a heavily taxed enterprise in the country. Take the case of the India Art Fair earlier this year, which saw many Western gallerists complaining about heavy tax tariffs and bureaucracy, which forced them to only ‘exhibit’ works in India rather than sell them. An article in ARTINFO-India, What’s Holding Back the Indian Art Boom?, engages with some of these issues.

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Though the idea may be good, international museums would only open branches in India, if they would see a consistent revenue stream from the public. It is a herculean task, but we should keep working towards building a museum going audience by getting important shows to India, creative outreach programs and of course better upkeep of our museums…and this is where the Government would need to play the main role. Maybe privatization of the national museums could be a way out, but then that is another debate.

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