Mumbai Airport

Taking Art from Museums to Masses

12 FEBRUARY 2017,
Mumbai Airport Terminal 2
Mumbai Airport Terminal 2

Do you remember when did you visit any art museum last time? Was it last week, last month or last year ? Or you are not able to recollect when you visited any museum last time?

If you are not able to recollect, then you are not the odd man out. In fact most of us including myself fall in this category of people. When I was at school, then it used to be once in a year or once in 2 year event. However, as I grew up and reached college and later, the visits to any museum became even more sporadic. And now, whenever I visit any museum then the visit is for taking my kids out to the museum. So, without realizing even though wanting to, we are getting sucked in to our day to day life which has very little place for any visits to the museum.

However, if I ask you when was the last time you visited any railway station, airport or a mall, then I am sure most of us would have visited such places in the recent past and very frequently. So my questions are:

1) What if the art steps out of the museums and walks into the airports and railway stations or other public places?
2) Any thoughts or initial reactions?

I faced the similar questions a while back when I read a story in newspaper about a new look T2 terminal at the Mumbai airport that had been completed and thrown open to the public. Mumbai airport is not any ordinary airport. It happens to be one of the busiest airports in India and the world and the city itself is one amongst the happening cities. The fact which drew my attention to the news item was the huge "walk-through museum" that has been conceptualized and created in the airport. The tall walls of the huge departure lounge have about 7000 artifacts going back to 7th century. The cost per square feet of T2 is around INR 12,000, taking the terminal project cost to INR 5,500 crore (close to a billion dollar). The total project cost, including the ecosystem around the terminal, is INR 12,500 crore (approx. USD 2 billion).

I must say that though this has been very expensive venture but the airport planners have done a great service to the art and the art-lovers of the world by taking out art from museums to have taken it to the masses. Looking at the size of the airport, I think now the T2 terminal of Mumbai airport becomes the biggest museum of the world. Considering the expected 40 million passengers in the year as has been projected, this would beat any other museum in the world from the perspective of footfalls. Hats off to the airport planners and authorities on this out of the box thinking.

As usual, this leaves me with few thoughts and questions for the authorities and the town planners across the cities:

1) Why can we not create similar "museums" at our other public places like airports and railway stations?
2) Why can't we have our major road crossings and circles designed to incorporate artifacts just like it has been done in few cities that I know of namely Kolkata and London and few other cities to a certain extent?
3) Metro stations can be one place which could be invested in and developed as such museums. Delhi Metro has started it at some of its stations but these needs to get a bigger push.
4) Stations, Metro coaches and buses can have poems and short stories inside especially of the young and budding writers. When bus or train is moving, those displayed in sidewalls of coach grab full attention of passengers. It has been used very effectively by London tube.
5) Maybe each museum can adopt a nearest railway station/airport on any public place in their respective cities and make a sort of a mini walk-through museum.

These will not only make our cities aesthetically beautiful but will provide art and artisans an outlet to get displayed rather than getting confined to the boundary walls of the museums. This apart, it will also take the art to the doorsteps of our next generation so as to make them absorb and appreciate the ancient as well as contemporary art.

Whatever pictures I have seen of the Mumbai airport, it seems like airport authorities may have to make special arrangements to handle those people who would arrive at the airport but might miss out on their flights due to having been engrossed and lost in the museum. I must say the Mumbai airport will soon become art lover’s paradise. I must add that pictures are just awesome, mesmerizing and enchanting.

I have not yet been to the airport yet but considering the pictures, I am just looking to grab the 1st available opportunity to be at T2 terminal. If you are an art-lover and happens to be a travel bug too, then a visit or routing through the Mumbai airport shall be on your bucket list and I am sure you will not regret it.