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Mumbai's classy T2 terminal to rival world-class art museums

Last updated on: January 21, 2014 13:41 IST

Mumbai's classy T2 terminal to rival world-class art museums

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Devina Joshi

Mumbai International Airport's new T2 terminal has an art collection to rival world-class museums, a miscellany of cultural nuances that embodies India.

So there's the Louvre in Paris, and then there is something called Jaya He. Although Mumbai's world-class art programme housed in T2, the spanking new terminal at the city's international airport, has been a topic of hot discussion, it takes an actual visit to fully understand the scale and magnitude of the project.

A museum's job description would perhaps involve transporting visitors to another time and place in history. 

But an airport isn't supposed to do that. So what is 'Jaya He' - with its three kilometre-long art wall displaying over 7,000 artefacts dating back to the 10th century and works of 1,500 artists - doing in an airport?

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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"We wanted to make Mumbai a destination with one of the finest international airports by designing it like no other and showcasing Indian art not just to world travellers but also to Indians who have lost interest in it," says Sanjay Reddy, vice-chairman, GVK Group, which built the new terminal.

The attempt? To mix heritage and contemporary art in a fusion to reflect what India embodies.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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The cost for constructing T2 was Rs 5,500 crore (Rs 55 billion), while the art venture cost a little less than 2 per cent of it, according to sources. The entire process took about five years to bear fruit.

Curator and scenographer Rajeev Sethi was roped in to spearhead the project, and he travelled for two years across India with the Reddys and his art crew, gathering cultural nuances, objects and constructing the framework for the art wall.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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Serendipitously, Sethi met a museum curator in Kerala who was shutting shop, and bought all his artefacts.

Jaya He brings together designers, artists, artisans, technicians, architects, art historians, anthropologists and conservators to bring forth a curious mix of modern and traditional India.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
Tags: Sethi , India

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The art wall, which wraps all around the interiors of the airport - breaking only functionally in the case of stairways or check-in counters - is divided into two sections.

The first is in the arrivals corridor, and is called 'Layered Narratives'. More Mumbai-specific, this section consists of a series of especially commissioned artworks that map the city (including specially created Bollywood paintings). 

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
Tags: Bollywood

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This segment has an impressive line-up of artists like Vivan Sundaram, GR Iranna, Riyas Komu, Manu Parekh, Baiju Parthan and Chittrovanu Majumdar.

The second section is a wall designed to direct and control circulation of passengers through the terminal. "I wanted the wall itself to become the artwork, an immense sculptural tableau of India's plural cultural legacy," says Sethi. This one is named 'Thresholds of India' which itself is divided into six themes representing cultural nuances from the major states.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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The 'India Elemental', is based on the Indian science of wellbeing. An installation of antique stone spouts represents water; bronze and stone lamps, fire; and canopies, flying locomotives.

'India Global', which features works by Nek Chand, among other artists, represents an India in the making, where incomplete constructions coexist with new-age architecture.

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'India Seamless' has four installations and includes collaborations between contemporary artists and artisans from across the country.

'India Moves' revolves around spirituality and comprises antique boats, bullock carts, flying machines and palanquins that speak of modes of transport both mundane and festive. This houses works by Madhavi Parekh and Tanjore paintings by Ramachandran.

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The art wall has iPads placed at regular intervals for visitors to know about the displays. Visits will be free of cost to travellers, but a special guided service under the banner of 'Pranaam' will carry a minimal charge.

A mobile app for Jaya He has also been launched on the Apple app store, allowing users to navigate their way across the wall, learn about the various themes displayed therein, and for art lovers, it even allows an option to get in touch with the artists directly.

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
Tags: Pranaam

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None of the artworks in T2 will be up for sale for tourists, but six months down the line, GVK aspires to merchandise art and crafts items dotting the wall area as an option to cater to tourists who would otherwise buy such items off dodgy markets.


Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com
Tags: GVK

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