In a pioneering initiative to engage the public imagination, the Museum partnered with ZegnArt, a project of Ermenegildo Zegna Group on a programme titled ‘Public’. Seven contemporary artists were
invited to engage with the Museum and its immediate environs and create a proposal for an artwork that reflected the nature of urban discourse and the tensions embedded in the idea of the ‘public’. The
project sought to encourage dialogue about the nature of public space and explore the dialectics between art and the urban environment.
Artist Reena Kallat was selected to conceptualise and create the public artwork for ZegnArt Public. Her work, Untitled (Cobwebs/Crossing) highlighted the relationship between public space and the city's history. In Untitled (Cobweb/Crossings), an oversized web made with hundreds of replica rubber stamps wove a history of the city onto the façade of the Museum, with each stamp bearing a colonial street name that has been replaced by an indigenous one. By recovering the memory of one aspect of the process of decolonization - the renaming of anglicised British street names with Indian or regional ones – it forms a palimpsest on to which generations re-inscribe stories. “A cobweb is evocative of time,” explains Reena Kallat, “and just as a room is left vacant, stories that are not visited gather cobwebs that appear to hold dust from the past.”
In a first of its kind, ZegnArt Public, who commissioned the project, donated the winning artwork to the Museum.
Each of the 7 shortlisted proposals were simultaneously displayed in the Museum’s Special Project Space.
Free, open to all tours of the exhibition in English, Hindi and Marathi were conducted by the Museum’s curatorial team every Sunday from January 25 – March 2, 2014
Using Kallat’s references to old street names and forgotten histories in the artwork as a starting point, the workshop included a walk-through of the Museum’s permanent collections, highlighting fading memories, disappearing histories and the changing identity of Mumbai. This was followed by a mixed-media art activity in which participants created personalized maps, recording their own unique memories and experiences of the city.This workshop was offered to schools, for students aged 8 and above, on request throughout the duration of the exhibition.
Two open-to-public sessions of this workshop were conducted during the Summer Workshops programme in May 2013. The sessions included an interaction with artist Reena Kallat.