'Museums are changing their USPs'

Defining Moment

'Museums are changing their USPs'

Encouraging: Mark Jones. DH Photo by Dinesh S K

If you thought that museums were boring musty places filled with dust covered artifacts, an encounter with Sir Mark Jones, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London will alter your opinion.

Taking over the V and A museum in 2001, he has been credited with making it into a swish futuristic space where visitors can expect recreational types of experience that are relaxing and fun-involving learning and an escape from the routines of work and everyday life.

On a collaborative art tour of India, he was in the City to inaugurate an exhibition of paintings and drawings from V and A’s collection by Western artists at the NGMA.
“Museums all over the world are changing their USPs and are wooing young visitors. People have limited leisure time and it is up to us to bridge the gap between education on the one hand and entertainment and recreation on the other. Today, the public has a voice in determining what museums must offer since visitors are the ultimate judge of their own experiences,” he says.

 As for India emerging as a significant player on the international art and design scene he says, “There is a large and growing interest worldwide in Indian art and design. A number of contemporary Indian artists are very visible on the art scene in London. One of the weak areas of British art is the folk art. Several traditional crafts and skills have disappeared which is a huge loss. It is very essential for any culture to keep traditional arts and crafts alive,” he says.

 On future collaborative plans with India which are already on schedule, he says: “We are soon curating an exhibition of Kalighat paintings from Bengal and shortly after that an exhibition on contemporary Indian art and design at the V and A. India has witnessed dynamic changes over the past decade, and we want to show how these were captured by Indian artists and designers.”

He feels strongly about encouraging young visitors and families to spend quality time at museums. “Entertainment can range from the emotional highs and thrills found at Disney parks to the more cerebral highs embodied in the learning that occurs at museums. We must find ways to strengthen core museum activities with broader leisure offerings,” he insists.

“Once a week the V and A throws its doors open to late evening live performances, cutting-edge fashion, debates, one-off displays, special guests, bar and food, guest DJs and late-night exhibition openings. It has been a wonderful success with young people coming in large numbers to make an evening of it in an atmosphere that is aesthetically pleasing and learning oriented!” he explains.

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