Discover the treasures of India’s museums at the Bihar Museum Biennale

A first of its kind in India, the Bihar Museum Biennale will host special on-ground exhibits, virtual tours of museums from India, Bangladesh, South America, and Europe; master classes; and panel discussions on the innovations needed for museums to adapt and survive in a post-COVID world.

The Bihar Museum is set to organize India’s first ‘museum biennale’ from March 22-March 28. A project of the Bihar government, it will run as a hybrid event and feature panel discussions, masterclasses and virtual museum tours. While art and film festivals are more popular in India, the museum biennale aims to highlight the importance of museums as a means to understand culture and identity, offer a glimpse into the treasures of Indian museums and explore the vision for museums in the future. “As an art historian, I can say that the soul of India, the heart of India in many ways is Bihar, whether it’s Pataliputra or Magadha. Bihar Museum Biennale will be an opportunity to bring out a compendium of the Indian museums, and to celebrate their respective collections, each telling its own story,” says the event’s project director, Dr Alka Pande.

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The Bihar Museum in Patna has been designed as a contemporary, multimedia space. (Photo: Courtesy Bihar Museum Biennale)

Designed by Japanese firm Maki and Associates, the Bihar Museum in Patna features multimedia exhibits with artefacts and artworks dating from ancient times to the 18th century, alongside a special gallery for children. During the biennale, the museum will showcase two exhibits, one on the making of the museum, by architect Rahul Gore, and another which will display the collections of 19 local museums in the city.  

The inauguration of the biennale by Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, will be followed by a two-day conference featuring sessions on antiquities, modern art and the museum as a site of incubation and ideas. Many of the panel discussions will also focus on the evolution of museums post-COVID with respect to technology, design, and audience engagement and outreach. Among the speakers are British art historian Neil MacGregor; Hilary Knight, Director of Digital, Tate Galleries, UK; Dr Souraya Noujaim, Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management Director at Louvre Abu Dhabi; Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director-General of CSMVS, Mumbai; and Javier Baron of Madrid’s Museo del Prado. You can also sign up for masterclasses—highlights include a session by Ira Mukhoty on Biographies of Emperors, Empresses, and Heroines; writing on culture by author Manu S. Pillai; and a masterclass by Lucía Martínez and Eva Martínez on Restoration at the Prado Museum. All sessions will be live-streamed and are accessible via the Bihar Museum Biennale website.  

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The Bihar Museum features historic artefacts dating from ancient times to the 18th century. (Photo: Courtesy Bihar Museum Biennale)

Several Indian and international museums have also been roped in for the biennale. While you may be stuck indoors, you can browse their collections by signing up for virtual tours of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vaastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai; City Palace Museum, Udaipur; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; Museum of Art & Photography, Bengaluru; Museo Camera, Gurugram; Museum of Goa, Bardez; The Liberation War Museum, Bangladesh; The Castle Museum in Pszczyna , Poland; National Museum of Colombia; and the Museum Marino Marini, Italy.

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