Modernity for Kolkata: KMOMA
Kolkata, that long-time bastion of turn-of-the-century culture, and the home of Bangla gentility, is ready to take its place among the great art cities of the world. London has its Tate Modern, New York has its MoMA, and now Kolkata will have KMOMA — the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art. Needless to say, design is involved in the creation of an art museum. But whether KMOMA’s design identity is good enough, or even enough, is still a question.
The $100 million project is the brainchild of erstwhile Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and on Friday, his successor Mamta Banerjee unveiled the architectural designs for the museum. The architects for the project are Herzog & de Meuron, who have designed a Rs. 410 crore public-private development on a ten acre plot in Rajarhat, Kolkata. It is apparently inspired by temple architecture, and is a fusion of Eastern & Western influences. It might be early days still to pass judgement on the stack of gray boxes — a museum is about the galleries, the program spaces, and the public facilites as much as it is about the initial visual statement.
But dig a little deeper, and you find a lot of mediocre design already involved in the project. Visit the website, kmomamuseum.org, even if it is only to laugh a little (or cringe) at the ridiculous flash animation intro. Once that flashy stuff runs out, there is curiously little to hold your attention in the website of a museum that claims it will represent Modern Art in India. The less said about the content of the site, the better.
Opinions may differ on the logo of the museum. The juxtaposition of the K (for Kolkata) and the Bengali Ko (the first consonant), makes sense in a uniquely Bengali way. And if the alleged Piet Mondrian inspiration is not to your liking, take some consolation in the fact that those aren’t Mondrian’s primary colors at all—they seem to be the primaries of our digital age: CMYK. I have a sneaky suspicion that this logo will manage to stand the test of time. It is vibrant, it is simple, and hardest to achieve, it is iconic. I’d love to praise the designer for it, but he/she is credited nowhere on the site, which is a grevious oversight.
A modern art museum that does not care for attribution?
That does not bode well for KMOMA.