A few years back, a renovated T2 terminal of Mumbai International airport had suddenly burst into the global art landscape with a vast "walk-through museum" that had been conceptualized and created in the airport premises. The towering walls of the huge departure lounge, the walkways, and utility areas, have about 7000 artifacts going back to the 7th century. All these artifacts have been painstakingly procured from the nooks and corners of the entire country. These include mythological, historical as well as contemporary items.
The project cost of artifying the airport terminal was around INR 7,000 crore (approx. USD 1 billion). Indeed it has been a costly venture, but the airport planners have done an excellent 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 magnitude of the airport, I think, now the T2 terminal of Mumbai airport becomes the biggest museum in the world. Considering the expected 40 million passengers per year as has been projected, this would beat any other museum in the world from the perspective of footfalls.
This is a unique concept whereby authorities brought a whole museum on your walkway rather than taking you into the museum especially in the times of virtual realism. This concept is now gathering significant momentum across the globe and in India too. The city and town planners are making efforts to artify the cities and towns which not only connect and expose people, especially our young generation with the art world, but also provide an outlet for artists to display their talent at the same time making the cities look aesthetically beautiful and uplifting. The airports, railway stations, and public places have started acquiring a cultural and artistic makeover.
The Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj, which was organized last year around February 2019, was another perfect example of this growing phenomenon. The entire town had been artified in such a way that the moment you enter the city, it uplifts your spirits and catapults you into a holy land. Overall, the entire experience is so divine and soothing to the senses. This is the power of art. Hyderabad and Kolkata in India are some other examples of the growing phenomenon.
Sometime early last year, the Lodhi Colony area in New Delhi burst into the limelight for similar reasons. They have gone a step ahead and have brought an entire museum to the doorsteps of the residents so that even if one wants, one cannot ignore it. The monotonous and unpretentious walls of the area have suddenly become lively with myriad murals, images, and triptychs. The walls have suddenly started talking and pulling people towards them. An NGO St+art India is the mastermind behind this initiative. The 2019 carnival of colors leading to the marriage of art with the walls began in January 2019. The walls adorn the murals from Indian artists such as Sameer Kulavoor, Hanif Kureshi and Sajid Wajid, and international artists from The Netherlands' Daan Botlek, Singaporean artists Yok and Sheryo and Sam Lo, and Japan's Yoh Nagao, German artist Bond, among others.
My friends from Google Local Guide community from Delhi planned a morning walk around the area, and I threw my hat in to join them. It was a two-hour walk from 8.00 a.m. to 10.00 a.m. The entire vent was coordinate and curated by Keshav Aggarwal, a Chartered Accountant, and Mehak. As the group started the trail, the walls provided a stunning view. They had come out like a phoenix. The dull and drab surroundings had given way to a vibrant mélange of colors and artistry. It seems the artists had put their hearts and soul on to the walls.
Each wall has its theme and a unique back story. Even if you do not want to get into an overdose of trivia and backstories, a simple walk around the area will be a unique and uplifting experience. If you are a Delhite and have not yet explored it, you are missing something sitting right on your driveway. If you are not a Delhite, pack your bags and catch a first available flight to immerse yourself in this surreal experience. Do plan a trip if not done till now. I heard that St+art India is planning to start regular curated tours to the area soon. We could not cover the entire area in two hours as we ended up spending more time on each wall than we had anticipated. It seems the beauty of the walls was not letting us go, and they were pulling us back. The shutterbugs in the group, including me, were not getting satiated while clicking pictures from various angles and directions. As it was the last week of April, the weather had started becoming unbearably hot. We would up around 10.00 a.m. even though no one wanted to. However, my next trip is due very soon to cover the entire area.
My ask from St+art India and to all the respective authorities... why don't you make entire Delhi an Art district. It will be a perfect ode to the national capital as well as it will give the artists a much bigger landscape to narrate their exploits. Other cities can pick up some threads from here, create art zones and have something surreal like this.