23 Jul 2013

Metro Art – A Venue For Public Art

As the much awaited Bangalore metro gets ready to be unveiled, there is a sense of anticipation and expectation in the air.  The elevated metro network with its multiple stations has transformed the topography of a major part of the city with the presence of gigantic concrete pillars and tracks.  The metro in Bangalore with its vast network should stand for much more than connectivity and aim to become a symbol of cultural and geographical significance.  After all, a metro station need not be a plain and bare space overlaid with metal and concrete, but can easily be an inspiring and imaginative space brimming with creativity.  A source of pride for the residents and a feast for the eyes for the daily commuters!

The metro stations can provide a wonderful forum for public art and function as a repository of artworks. The days of ill illuminated and uninspiring station are passé and now some of the finest art museums are located and displayed at some of the most innovative metro stations in the world. The Stockholm metro station is considered to be amongst the ‘world's largest and most impressive museums’ which contains sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, inscriptions and reliefs from 1950s onwards and done by more than a hundred artists.  In fact, Stockholm's ‘tunnelbana’ is referred to as the world's longest art gallery because works of art have been integrated in almost every station.  Some of the other Metros with significant public art and architecture in the stations are Brussels, Montreal, Stockholm, Athens, Prague and Moscow. 

The Bangalore metro too has the potential to combine art and architecture and create a platform to showcase Indian contemporary art before the world.  As the metro will be used by local citizens as well as tourists it therefore provides the perfect opportunity to create a stunning display which can set a benchmark.  A different design for each station also works well with commuters as each station then has its own identity and unique character.

In terms of artworks, there are immense possibilities, for instance in Paris there are stations which display copies of masterpieces from the Louvre, giant murals and sculptures form part of the artworks at Santiago's metro, while in Athens there are archaeological exhibits at several of the metro stations.  An elevated art installation with flying figures at one of the stations in Brussels has a stunning impact.  In Dubai, the metro stations see a combination of heritage and modern designs which are inspired from elements of nature as well as Islamic influences.

Similarly, the Bangalore metro has the potential to create a world class ambience and stunning interiors by adding artworks in a cohesive and integrated manner which highlights the cultural significance of the region in an international style. Life sized sculptures, folk and tribal art, contemporary paintings, murals and large installations are just a few artworks which can be used innovatively to clearly state that Bangalore is much more than an IT capital: it is also an important arts and culture destination.

The design possibilities are endless and the stations could follow a futuristic, minimalist or a traditional style which becomes a unified entity through its architecture and art.  Each station could adopt an exclusive design style which can then influence the rest of the decor scheme accordingly. It is important here to have a systematic approach to ensure that there is no haphazard display of art and an integrated harmonious look is created. There is enormous talent in the city and the region and one can create a metro with a distinct identity which the city can be proud of.

The writer is an art consultant

(Published in Nov, 2011 in Times of India, Bangalore)

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