Gone are the days of static museums that would induce yawns from visitors. Increasingly, museums are becoming interactive, highly experiential places succeeding in creating interest on a range of subjects. Bihar has taken the engagement one step further by organising a vibrant Museum Biennale, an ambitious venture that pulls in museum experts from all over the world and exhibits from key Indian museums, with the aim of fostering the museum culture. 

On Monday, the second edition of the Bihar Museum Biennale (BMB) — the first edition was held virtually in 2021 — kicked off in Patna. Launching the event, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar outlined his dream for the showpiece project, which he hoped would attract visitors from far and near. BMB 2023 will last four months and will see cross collaborations from various Indian and international museums, including Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, which is the knowledge partner. A G20 multidisciplinary Exhibition — Together We Art — will showcase the works of 19 artists from G20 member nations and nine guest countries.

The event is being held at the new Bihar Museum, spread over 13 and half acres, a sprawling elegant space conceived by Nitish Kumar to showcase the history of the State and its impact on the subcontinent.  Describing how he overrode objections to set up the international standard futuristic Bihar Museum, the CM said it would be connected to the old Patna Museum with a seamless underground art tunnel stretching 1.5 kilometres. Once completed, visitors can explore both museums through the art tunnel on a single ticket.

Anjani Kumar Singh, Director General of the Bihar Museum, described how the Museum Biennale hopes to become an ‘ideas laboratory’. “The Museum Biennale aspires to shape cultures, foster meaningful discussions, and elevate the museum space into a dynamic realm. This unique platform serves as an avenue for sharing histories, strategies,” he added.

Key exhibits

Among the talked about displays is one from Nepal Art Council, which has brought the exhibition ‘Nepal: Where the Gods Reside’ to the biennale. Through over 70 artworks, the display presents the syncretic spiritual atmosphere of Nepal. Mystic Universe — an immersive show by Russia — is also on display.

A host of cultural conversations are also planned over the next four months. Kicking off the talks, on August 8, Yannick Lintz, President Musee Guimet, Paris will share his perspectives on curatorial strategies and displays in the museums. On August 9, Stephen Inglis, Director General of Research and Collections at the Canadian Museum of Civilisation, will be talking about new museums and Typologies. 

The Kochi Biennale has succeeded in drawing art lovers to Kerala – can the Bihar Museum Biennale do the same for Patna?

 (The writer was in Patna at the invitation of Bihar Museum)