Promising Young Professionals Team Up at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) is an education-led initiative that aims to establish a public museum dedicated to the display, research, collection, and conservation of Sri Lankan modern and contemporary art for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public, schools, and tourists. During a time when most other museums around the world were downsizing, a dynamic group of young professionals have been driving this much needed initiative forward. Since it launched in 2019, the team behind MMCA Sri Lanka has grown from a four to a 12 person full-time team. This growing team of professionals includes Pramodha Weerasekera, Assistant Curator, Education and Public Programming, Sanuja Goonetilleke, Curator, Learning and Training, and Thinal Sajeewa, Research Assistant. These promising young professionals have shared their thoughts on their journeys at the MMCA Sri Lanka.
- What are the highlights of your time at the MMCA Sri Lanka?
Pramodha: Since joining in 2019 as part of the founding team at the MMCA Sri Lanka, the main highlight for me was our first exhibition ‘one hundred thousand small tales’. I enjoyed supporting the curatorial process behind all the public programmes and the school/university visits we organised. A school visit I will always remember was a special field visit we organised for 60 preschool children on Valentine’s Day, 2020.
Sanuja: Seeing our Visitor Educators receive positive feedback from visitors, and hearing an intern indicate an interest in a long-term career path in this field are always moments of highlight for me. A highlight from just last year has to be the completion of the Museum Intensive, our first collaborative international training program, after a year of online research and planning.
Thinal: One of the highlights was the opportunity to intern with the museum, which ultimately led to my full-time position. I am grateful for the open-minded and supportive work environment, as well as the guidance and mentorship provided by my line managers. These factors have contributed significantly to my personal and professional growth since joining the MMCA Sri Lanka.
- How have your responsibilities within the team evolved since joining?
Pramodha: In the first year my work involved researching the educational landscape of Sri Lanka and greater Colombo, and curating the museum’s Outreach programme. As our second exhibition ‘Encounters’ came into being, my work evolved with the growing approach to public programmes. I was soon working with a significant number of resource persons to curate and execute public programmes for all target audiences.
Sanuja: I applied to and joined the MMCA Sri Lanka in mid-2021 as its first Assistant Curator of Learning and Training. I was promoted to Curator of Learning and Training in early 2022. My role entails research, management, and evaluation of all our training activities. In addition, I’ve increasingly begun to ideate new, longer term programs.
Thinal: Upon joining the MMCA Sri Lanka as a Visitor Educator, my initial responsibilities included facilitating interactions with visitors and assisting public programmes. During my internship, I had the opportunity to engage further with the artworks during production. In my current full-time position, I am responsible for conducting research and cataloguing a collection, which I think reflects the evolution and increasing seriousness of my responsibilities at the museum.
- Why do you want to work at the MMCA Sri Lanka?
My values related to art align very closely with the museum’s approach. I have always believed in the museum’s larger mission of establishing a museum of modern and contemporary art in Sri Lanka, and especially the drive of the core team and its founders to face this challenge. I am also driven by my passion to give back to the communities of students, art educators, children, intellectuals, and artists through knowledge sharing and learning experiences.
Museum-based learning and creative placemaking are stubbornly tangible phenomena in an increasingly digital-obsessed world. I like that. My current role in Learning and Training often looks to the future. Therefore, I value contributing to the MMCA Sri Lanka’s journey to being such a culturally and economically symbolic organisation in time.
I was not initially interested in art, but upon receiving an opportunity to work at the museum, I realised the potential for personal growth in this field. As such, I am motivated to develop my skills and eventually become a curator at the museum.
Headline: Pramodha Weerasekera from the MMCA Sri Lanka speaks at the Museum of Art and Photography, Bangaluru
Pramodha Weerasekera, Assistant Curator of Education and Public Programmes at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) will be speaking at the conference ‘Beyond Theory: Mapping Feminist Practices in the Contemporary’ organised by the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) in Bangalore, India. The conference will be held on 24–25 March 2023, and Weerasekera has been invited to participate in a panel about curatorial practices in South Asia, which will be held on 24 March.
The conference will be held in conjunction with an exhibition titled “Visible/Invisible: Representation of Women in Art through the MAP collection”. The focus of the conference will be on feminist practices in visual arts, and Weerasekera will speak about a feminist approach to public programmes at museums.
“I am excited to be part of a panel of emerging professionals in the South Asian art community at this conference. While we often think of Public Programmes at a museum as just executing an event, it is much more, as it involves spurring conversations among participants. This requires dedicated creative thinking about the artworks on display as well as the intended audience. I think MAP has taken a significant step towards thinking about programming at arts organisations through a feminist lens,” noted Weerasekera.
The subject matter of her talk will be the conversations Weerasekera has initiated among participants of Gallery Talks, Workshops, and Special Performances at the MMCA Sri Lanka, about themes related to living a feminist life every day. Central among them will be the conversations she facilitated on divorce and family law, the stigma around menstruation, as well as women’s labour as a contribution towards the economy, at the public programmes hosted by the MMCA Sri Lanka in relation to Women’s Day 2022. Weerasekera will also touch upon the feminist approach taken towards the Gallery Talks relating to the artworks of George Keyt (1901–1993), Nelun Harasgama (b. 1959), and Janani Cooray (b. 1974) that are on display in Rotation 3 of MMCA Sri Lanka’s exhibition titled ‘Encounters’.
Reflecting on the significance of this conference upon her career as a museum professional, Weerasekera stated that, “Since 2019, through my work in Education and Public Programmes at the MMCA Sri Lanka, I have been able to contribute significantly in engaging members of the public with the visual arts. I look forward to this opportunity to reflect on my work as a curator and what it means to conceptualise and execute public experiences informed by feminist thinking.”
Weerasekera will be speaking alongside Srajana Kalkini (based in Chennai, India) and Veeranganakumari Solanki (based in India).
Headline: Sandev Handy and Ritchell Marcelline of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka on a Residency at the Singapore Art Museum
Sandev Handy, Curator and Ritchell Marcelline, Assistant Curator at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) took part in the EX-SITU: Art Spaces Residency at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) from 10 January to 6 February 2023.
SAM has introduced this residency as ‘a museum-run programme committed to supporting the development of innovative artistic and curatorial practices that respond to current global discourses’. During their residency Handy and Marcelline focused on understanding current backend museum practices, exhibition making strategies, and the future institutional and pedagogical trajectories of the Singaporean museum landscape, in order to examine what an art museum in the making in Sri Lanka can absorb from it. They further directed their attention to learning new approaches around audience engagement, developing workflows and best practices for museums, along with training in collections management and conducting curatorial research that connect discourses in South East Asia to those in Sri Lanka and the broader South Asia region.
Speaking about the Ex-Situ Residency, Marcelline recalled “The time in Singapore was crucial to understanding what it takes to build and grow sustainable institutions dedicated to public benefit. I learned the mechanics of big ideas such as developing a long-term vision, growing and training a dedicated team, and planning years ahead to structurally prepare an institution to grow into its future projects.” He further noted that “The training on essential smaller components such as back-end processes, timelines, and budgets was also extremely helpful. Most importantly, the Ex-Situ Residency made me reflect on the necessity of not being afraid to experiment.”
Handy and Marcelline’s itinerary included visits to institutions such as the National Art Gallery Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, Heritage Conservation Centre, the National Archives, the National Museum and the STPI: Creative Workshop and Gallery, and independent art spaces such as Hot House, Aliwhal Art Centre, OH! Open House, and Kult Kafe. They further took part on a walk across Punggol with Farhan Idris, met with Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum and joined Shabbir Hussain Mustafa on a Residency Thursday Talk. They also visited the Singapore Art Week events, exhibitions, galleries, and talks, and the Singapore Biennale exhibitions.
“What underscored my time in Singapore, was learning how crucial it is for Sri Lanka that both state and private bodies recognise the importance of funding the contemporary arts and cultural fields, and recognise the role they play in the country’s future,” said Handy, adding that “My time there showed me the rich culture of exchange and conversation across the arts in South East Asia, and how important it is to not only facilitate a similar conversation in South Asia, but bridge the gulf of discourses that exist between South Asia and South East Asia.”
Headline: MMCA Sri Lanka Selected for the Web3 for the Arts and Culture (WAC) Fellowship
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) is participating in the Web3 for the Arts and Culture (WAC) Fellowship programme, offered by We Are Museums and TZ Connect with the support of the Tezos Foundation. The MMCA Sri Lanka is the only arts and cultural institution from Asia out of the 12 recipient institutions in this cohort of the 12-week fellowship, which began on 26 January 2023.
This innovation laboratory aims to educate and onboard participants onto Web3, with a focus on using blockchain technology to further their missions for culture preservation, social good, environmental justice, and financial stability.
“As arts institutions navigate the current climate, Web3 offers a new world of challenges and opportunities,” said Diane Drubay, Founder of WAC Lab. “Our goal is to work with these institutions to explore how they can use blockchain technology in innovative ways to achieve their goals and build a sustainable future,” she added.
Other participants in the WAC Fellowship include the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (Australia), Belvedere Museum (Austria), Haus der Kunst München (Germany), House of Electronic Arts (Switzerland), French Ministry of Culture (France), Institute for Sound and Music (Germany), Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie (France), National Taras Shevchenko Museum (partnering with ArtAegis and Modern Art Research Institute) (Ukraine), The Reel Store (United Kingdom), The Royal College of Art (United Kingdom), and the Wooko Makandie Foundation (The Netherlands).
Reflecting the multidisciplinary applications of blockchain in the arts and culture, the MMCA Sri Lanka staff members participating in this fellowship are; Sanuja Goonetilleke, Curator of Learning and Training; Ritchell Marcelline, Assistant Curator (Exhibitions); Thinal Sajeewa, Research Assistant (Exhibitions); and Manuja Mallikarachchi, Digital and Design Intern.
Speaking about the MMCA Sri Lanka’s objectives of participating in the programme, Ritchell Marcelline, Assistant Curator noted that “As technology constantly evolves, we as a museum in the making have an opportunity to take a step in this direction, by using technology to advance access and opportunities.” He further added, “Through this fellowship I hope to learn how to put Web3 or blockchain technology to practical use in our museum activities, ranging from better archiving to integrated programming access.”
Headline: Suhanya Raffel Appointed as the President of CIMAM for 2023–2025
Suhanya Raffel, Director of M+, has been appointed as the President of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) for 2023–2025. Raffel has led the M+, a visual art museum in Hong Kong, since 2019. She is also a founding Committee Member of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka).
Acknowledging her appointment, Raffel noted that “To serve as the next President of CIMAM is an honour, and I am excited to work together with my fellow board members to contribute to our modern and contemporary art museum community as we face a complex and challenging world.”
She added, “The past three years have seen much tumult and division, with the global Covid-19 pandemic adding a further degree of separation within our societies. In this context, the roles our museums play in bringing people together, with the work of artists providing necessary insight, vision, and perspective has become ever more urgent.”
Headline: The European Union Partners to Support ‘Encounters’ by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka
In February 2022, the European Union (EU) entered a partnership with the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka’s (MMCA Sri Lanka) second exhibition titled ‘Encounters’ which opened on 11 February 2022.
Acknowledging the support extended by the EU to ‘Encounters’, Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator of the MMCA Sri Lanka said, “The EU’s support of the ‘Encounters’ exhibition made it possible for the MMCA Sri Lanka to offer a six month free public programming. Many of these programmes were offered during the aragalya, which saw people across the island protesting against the extreme hardships inflicted by the economic and political situation in the country.” In spite of the difficulties in the country, the MMCA Sri Lanka continued to attract visitors. Speaking about audience attendance, Pereira states that “Those who attended group events like puzzle days or discussion-based events during this time were higher than expected. This indicates how vital it is for museums like ours to prioritise public engagement, and open up our doors more consciously to the societies in which we are located.”
Through this grant, the EU generously supported the delivery of 61 free, public programmes which saw 1,087 participants. These included 11 workshops which engaged the participants with the artworks on display through hands-on experiences. “These workshops, curated alongside thematics related to the exhibition, have allowed participants to engage in a variety of interests ranging from reading history from stamps, storytelling, botanical drawing, visual journaling, sewing and embroidery, and origami to eco-friendly living,” noted Pramodha Weerasekara, Assistant Curator of Education and Public Programming, MMCA Sri Lanka. Elaborating on the educational aspect of these workshops, Weerasekara said, “Participants engage in these learning experiences within the context of the museum and the exhibition. They leave with not only the knowledge they gained from the workshop but hopefully, a renewed interest in Sri Lankan modern and contemporary art.”
At the beginning of each rotation of ‘Encounters’, the MMCA Sri Lanka hosted private previews for educators connected with the museum through its outreach programmes. This is another initiative which the EU’s support enabled, encouraging the educational endeavours of the MMCA Sri Lanka. At the beginning of Rotation 1 and 2 of ‘Encounters’ two such events were held on 10 February and 22 June 2022, attended by a total of 34 teachers. “As an education-led museum, providing learning experiences for our audiences is a priority for us,” stated Weerasekara, adding that “we are therefore extremely grateful for the continued support of the European Union towards Public Programmes related to ‘Encounters’.”
The MMCA Sri Lanka invites a diverse range of people, including artists, architects, and designers amongst others, to facilitate their public programmes. The EU grant made it possible to work with and support 103 such resource persons for various workshops, gallery talks, and other public events. In addition, the grant supported the recruitment of 25 Visitor Educators (VEs) to the museum. As the first points of contact between visitors, and the exhibitions and programmes, VEs are present in the MMCA Sri Lanka’s galleries to engage with audiences of all levels.
Speaking on this partnership, Anne Vaugier-Chatterjee, International Relations Officer for Politics, Trade, and Economics Relations- Sri Lanka and the Maldives said, “It was a pleasure for the EU Delegation to support the innovative approach of the MMCA Sri Lanka and its Chief Curator Sharmini Pereira. As well as repositories of the past, museums should be living experiences and this was achieved in a very successful way with the current exhibition ‘Encounters’.” Addressing the socio-political significance of the exhibition, Vaugier-Chatterjee noted that, “‘Encounters provides a new window into the country’s modern and contemporary art, while also reflecting socio-political developments of significance,” adding that “We trust that it will continue to attract a very diverse audience of young and old, cutting across class and age groups in an inclusive outreach.”
For more information on the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram at instagram.com/mmcasrilanka/
Headline: The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka opens Rotation 3 of ‘Encounters’
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) opens Rotation 3 of its exhibition titled ‘Encounters’ today (8 December 2022). The public can view the exhibition until 19 March 2023, at the museum premises inside Crescat Boulevard, Colombo. Curated by Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka and Sandev Handy, Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka, ‘Encounters’ opened on 11 February 2022 and will close to the public on 19 March 2022. Entrance to the exhibition is free.
‘Encounters’ Rotation 3 introduces two new displays with artworks by A. Mark (1933–2000), George Keyt (1901–1993), Nelun Harasgama (b. 1959), and Janani Cooray (b. 1974). With a focus on clothing, one of the new displays looks at how garments, beyond their functionality, can convey information about class, professional status, gender, and nationality. The display brings together a startling juxtaposition between a painting titled ‘Kandyan Bride’ (1951) by George Keyt and a barbed wire costume worn as part of a performance titled ‘Osariya’ (2015) by performance artist Janani Cooray. Both works highlight the historical relationships between clothing and social identity, inviting audiences to compare and contrast the different ways in which the Kandyan sari or ‘osariya’ is viewed in Sri Lanka.
“My hope is that this display aids us in re-considering George Keyt and the political reverberations embedded in his paintings; particularly in his depiction of women. As recently seen by the public outcry on the clothing standards required of female state employees, this encounter may lead us to not only re-consider Keyt, but to further question the role clothing itself has played in crafting a national identity,” noted Handy.
The second new display to open on 8 December is also prompted by a George Keyt painting, but turns attention to a topic of a spiritual nature. Here, George Keyt’s 1949 painting titled ‘The Offering’ is placed in a conversation with three artworks that explore representations of the crucifixion. This display includes works by Nelun Harasgama and A. Mark, with the addition of another George Keyt who also painted the subject of the crucifixion.
Pereira, Chief Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka said, “Showing George Keyt’s ‘The Offering’ alongside crucifixion-based works by two contemporary artists are exactly the kinds of provocations between artworks we wanted to create in ‘Encounters’. As the first exhibition in Sri Lanka to publicly exhibit individual paintings by George Keyt, ‘Encounters’ begins the task of dismantling outdated art history or ‘connoisseurship’ that has not addressed his actual artworks. We hope our approach will encourage a more critically engaged discussion about Keyt and other artists of his generation.”
A new line up of free public programmes accompanies Rotation 3 of ‘Encounters’ to engage the public with the artworks on display. These include weekly gallery talks with artists, workshops with professionals, and exhibition tours with the museum’s curators and Visitor Educators.
‘Encounters’ is generously supported by the European Union and the Goethe Institut, with the additional support of Fairfirst Insurance and Nilu’s Construction and Engineering. The radio partners for ‘Encounters’ are Lite 87, Rhythm World, and TNL Now.
For more information on the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mmcasrilanka/ for updates.
Headline: The MMCA Sri Lanka concludes its first Museum Intensive training programme
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA Sri Lanka) successfully held its first Museum Intensive (MI) from 24–28 October 2022 as a five-day museum training programme. The training was conducted at the MMCA Sri Lanka premises and the John Keells X co-working and accelerator space. The MI programme was the culmination of a year-long collaboration between the MMCA Sri Lanka, the Reinwardt Academy at the Amsterdam University of the Arts, and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, with the support of the Netherlands Embassy in Sri Lanka.
Acknowledging the support extended by the Netherlands Embassy in Sri Lanka, H.E. Bonnie Horbach, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Sri Lanka said, “This initiative not only strengthens the capacity of Sri Lankan professionals, it also preserves and promotes Sri Lankan culture by involving current and future generations. Knowledge exchange and creating professional networks amongst young professionals working in the museum sector is more important than ever. The sector has a lot of potential in Sri Lanka. We are very honoured to be supporting this major initiative, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka.”
Twenty two full-time participants and nine part-time participants representing over 19 cultural organisations in Sri Lanka joined the programme. Together, they took part in four lectures, six workshops and group activities, five field visits to the MMCA Sri Lanka, eight guided discussions, and final group presentations. The field visits to the gallery space of the MMCA Sri Lanka provided a case study for the participants. “Having no academic background in gallery or museum studies,” noted one participant, “I learned the important basics that are applied to this area which has helped me immensely to better understand my visitors and customers.” Echoing the sentiments of many participants, one claimed that “Building networks and learning from different institutions” was one of the perks of joining this training programme.
Museum training can take many forms, and the Museum Intensive is a pilot programme that aims to build capacity in the museum sector in Sri Lanka. The programme involved a range of activities which aimed to help these professionals think about how their audiences engage with their work. Speaking about the training programme, Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka, remarked “We debunked many ideas about what a museum should be in order to think out loud about the many ways a museum might be experienced if the rule book about how audiences engage with art was re-written. The Museum Intensive gave rise to five stimulating days of conversations and role play, where the participants sang happy birthday, answered 50 questions about a can of sprite, tied knots in a piece of string, and displaced the word ‘audience’ with a list of other terms. They connected the importance of objects to storytelling from the small stories to the bigger issues that surround and inform all the work that they do. It was intense for good reason. Audience engagement is where we need to think together and build better museum experiences.”
At the closing event of the programme, participants were presented with certificates of participation. They were presented by H.E. Bonnie Horbach, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Sri Lanka; Yolanda Ezendam, Head of Collections, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands; Ruben Smit,Senior Lecturer and Manager of International Programmes, Reinwardt Academy of the Amsterdam University of the Arts and Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka.
For more information on the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mmcasrilanka/
Headline: Sri Lanka’s global relationships highlighted in ‘Encounters’ by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka
‘Encounters’ by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) takes one on a journey of multiple encounters. Display 1 of this exhibition follows the historical trail of Sri Lanka’s emergence in the international arena through diplomatic and geopolitical relationships. The artworks and artefacts on display, from as early as the 1960s, documents this development through several milestones in the island’s history.
The first Asian-African Conference, titled the Bandung Conference, took place in 1955 to bring together a group of Asian-African nations representing 54% of the world’s population. The conference was a precursor to the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961, amidst the steeping Cold War between pro-Soviet and pro-USA countries. Sri Lanka was a part of the coalition of nations that formed the NAM to recognize their shared post-independence economic and political struggles.
‘The Bandung Conference’ (1955) by Aubrey Collette (1920–1992) caricatures those in attendance at the Bandung Conference. Sri Lankan Prime Minister General Sir John Kotelawala (1897–1980) is foregrounded next to prominent figures of the NAM, including President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–1970), and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964). Of the 29 government representatives, Collette also foregrounds the Chinese Premier and Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai (1898–1976). The Chinese Premier is depicted at the corner of the work alluding to China’s emerging influence on conversations related to economic development that was part of the larger agenda of decolonization, self-rule, and non-aggression.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike (1916–2000), Sri Lanka hosted the 5th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement with 86 countries in participation, on 16–19 August 1976 in Colombo. Bandaranaike was astute with marketing initiatives, and commissioned artistic talent to showcase Sri Lanka through many media such as artwork, commemorative artefacts, and literary publications aligned with the spirit of the NAM.
A central piece of art commissioned for this event is a painting by Senaka Senanayake. This large-scale work was hung in the lobby of Hotel Lanka Oberoi (Cinnamon Grand), in the line of sight of visiting dignitaries. In this painting, animals roam freely within a fantastical landscape visualised through a palette of vibrant greens and browns with hues of aqua blue, grey, and off-white. All the facial features of the animals are noticeably absent, creating a sense of uniformity between the species. Similarly, their bodies are reduced to radiating discs of flat colour, marking out their commonality rather than difference. Such details offer an image of the nation in equilibrium with the forces of nature, while underlining the idealism and optimism held out for the Non-Aligned Movement.
Moreover, Bandaranaike had commemorative Five and Two Rupee coins issued by the government of Sri Lanka. The coins depict the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), established in memory of the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (1899–1959). Built between 1970 and 1973, the BMICH was gifted to Sri Lanka by the People’s Republic of China. This was in response to a request made in 1968 by Premier Bandaranaike for a fully equipped conference hall, as part of preparations to host the 5th Non-Aligned Summit Conference. The coins commemorate not only the Summit, but also the diplomatic relationship that was being laid between China and Sri Lanka.
Following the declaration of Sri Lanka as a republic in May 1972, a national emblem was designed by the ‘National Emblem and Flag Design Committee’. The emblem included the petals of the blue lotus flower which is a symbol of purity and detachment in Buddhist culture.
The Lotus imagery makes an appearance in two publications from the period, both of which are on view in Display 1 of ‘Encounters’. In 1968 the Afro-Asian Writers’ Bureau published a bulletin entitled ‘The Call,’ and a trilingual quarterly journal entitled ‘Afro-Asian Writings.’ The latter was renamed as ‘Lotus: Afro-Asian Writings’ in the 1970s, and is considered as one of the most important and prolific contributions to Cold War era anti-colonial ‘Third Worldist’ literature.
It is evident through these many ‘Encounters’, that Sri Lanka has risen above murky waters and established strong diplomatic ties across the globe. ‘Encounters’ so richly raises our awareness of where Sri Lanka was headed between the 60s and the 70s. It exemplifies what 50 years of encounters and leadership can manifest and create.
For more information on the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mmcasrilanka/
Headline: Pivotal Conversations about Sri Lankan Contemporary Art Continue: The #SupportLocalArt Talk Series Completes Its Second Edition
The second edition of the #SupportLocalArt: The Talk Series, curated and organised by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) took place from 24 July to 14 August 2022. Initiated by the Saskia Fernando Gallery and supported by Nations Trust Private Banking, the first edition of the series took place in 2021.
“The #SupportLocalArt Talk Series was launched during a Covid lockdown with the intention of creating further collaboration and conversation within the Sri Lankan art industry,” recalls Saskia Fernando, Director of the Saskia Fernando Gallery. “We soon realised that the best way to sustain the programme was if we passed on to our entire community, thus widening the reach and scope of these discussions. Edition Two of the series was hence presented by the MMCA Sri Lanka during a turbulent time, and its curation was influenced by various elements of the protests within the island in 2022,” she continued.
The second edition of the #SupportLocalArt Talk Series, curated by the MMCA Sri Lanka, in response to the current economic and political situation in Sri Lanka, consisted of three online talks. Bringing together a host of panellists from different backgrounds and points of view, the talks addressed the role of art in relation to community, cultural diplomacy, and humour.
The first talk, #SupportLocalArt Talk: The Power of Community which took place on 24 July 2022, was a conversation between Sandev Handy, Curator at the MMCA Sri Lanka with Kamala Vasuki (artist), Shamara Wettimuny (academic), and Venuri Perera (artist) about the role of community in relation to their activist practices. The talk responded not only to the current momentum of the ‘aragalaya’ in Sri Lanka, but also to the ways in which the artists in the panel have combined their art with activism and community to spread awareness and build audience engagement.
In the second talk, #SupportLocalArt Talk: The Power of Diplomacy held on 7 August 2022, Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator at the MMCA Sri Lanka spoke to Aurelia Collard (Cultural Attachė, French Embassy in Sri Lanka), George Cooke (academic and diplomatic historian), and Kelly McCarthy (First Secretary, Public Affairs Section, US Embassy in Sri Lanka) about the role of diplomacy in arts and culture in Sri Lanka. The talk highlighted the history of cultural diplomacy and the soft power role of cultural work to raise issues that traditional forms of cultural diplomacy cannot do. The panellists compared and contrasted cultural diplomacy in action across time and place in France and the USA. They discussed the numerous challenges as well the opportunities that exist when cultural diplomacy is framed in arm’s length to state policy, where cultural diplomacy can become an effective way to mitigate the negative perceptions created by higher level politics.
In the third and final talk of the series held on 14 August 2022, Pramodha Weerasekera, Assistant Curator Education and Public Programmes at the MMCA Sri Lanka chatted with Dino Corera (comedian), Gehan Blok (comedian), Gihan de Chickera (political cartoonist), and Sharmini Pereira (art historian and curator) about the relationship between humour and art. The talk highlighted the ways in which the panellists and their peers have used humour in their digital content, theatre performances, and cartoons, in the current moment of heightened economic and political instability in Sri Lanka. The panel also touched on the history of art and humour in Sri Lanka by acknowledging the practices of modernist artists such as cartoonist Aubrey Collette (1920–1992) who went into exile following criticism of his work during the 1950s and 1960s.
Sanjaya Senarath, Chief Marketing Officer of Nations Trust Bank noted that, “The Bank believes that the partnership with the MMCA Sri Lanka will serve as an opportunity to empower the next generation of artists and art lovers alike. We believe that this talk series serves as a unique platform to reach out to communities and develop their talent and creativity. Nations Trust Bank has been an ardent supporter of local art and artists through its various past initiatives, and together with the MMCA Sri Lanka we look forward to exposing Sri Lankan contemporary art to the new generation, whilst uplifting local artists to a next level.”
Video recordings of all the talks of #SupportLocalArt: The Talk Series Edition Two can be viewed on its YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCylvj8EIwenvXEjCdKQgZ9A and the MMCA Sri Lanka’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mmcasrilanka.
Image: Kamala Vasuki, Venuri Perera, and Shamara Wettimuny in conversation with Sandev Handy, Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka at the #SupportLocalArt Talk: The Power of Community held on 24 July 2022.
Image: Kelly McCarthy, George Cooke, and Aurelia Collard in conversation with Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka at the #SupportLocalArt Talk: The Power of Diplomacy held on 7 August 2022.
Image: Dino Corera, Gihan de Chickera, Gehan Blok, and Sharmini Pereira in conversation with Pramodha Weerasekera, Assistant Curator Education and Public Programmes, MMCA Sri Lanka at the #SupportLocalArt Talk: The Power of Humour held on 14 August 2022.
Headline: Visitor Educator Programme at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka
“How important is the visitor experience to a museum of modern and contemporary art? Does it begin when someone steps foot inside its physical space, or over social media? What motivates people to visit a museum? Do all visitors experience a museum in the same way? These are some of the questions we ask ourselves as we look at how to create the best possible museum experience for our visitors,” says Chief Curator, Sharmini Pereira.
To achieve its vision of establishing a more publicly accessible museum in Sri Lanka, the Museum and Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) needs to build capacity of museum sector personnel, preparing them to not only meet professional standards set by the museum industry internationally but also equipping them with the knowledge required for meeting challenges that are relevant, above all, to the Sri Lankan context. One of the key areas of capacity building for the museum is thinking about ways to facilitate meaningful arts-based learning and engagement experiences for a variety of visitors.
In early 2022, the museum launched the second phase of its Visitor Educator (VE) programme. Conceived and designed on docent programmes that are hallmarks of professional museum operations and pedagogical approaches worldwide, the VE position and training programme is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. It is at the heart of MMCA Sri Lanka’s learning and training efforts, not only for its internal staff, but also for its public.
In 2022, the role of Curator Learning and Training was created, underlining the commitment of the museum to educational work over exhibition making. As the first curator to take on this role, Sanuja Goonetilleke, has been involved in setting up and designing the VE programme. Speaking about her work, Sanuja says “VE training covers multiple disciplines including research, collections safety, customer service, pedagogical methods for working with adult and child learners, data collection, making sense of visual art terminology, event management, and public speaking. VEs can transfer the skills they gain through their experience at the MMCA Sri Lanka to a variety of careers within, but also beyond, the world of professional museums in Sri Lanka and internationally. This is what makes it such an attractive role.”
The MMCA Sri Lanka’s VEs play a pivotal role as the first points of contact between visitors and the museum. Learning through art, particularly in the context of a museum, is a relatively new approach to learning in Sri Lanka. Often, school visits to museums are passive, non-interactive experiences with little to no contact with staff who work in the museum. By contrast, the MMCA Sri Lanka takes an entirely different approach by focussing on the quality of the visitor experience from the time they might engage with the museum online to their experience in the galleries and as they leave. MMCA Sri Lanka’s Gallery Manager Thariq Thahireen says “Visiting the museum in person, audiences encounter VEs, who are trained to greet them at the front desk and interact with them inside the galleries. They can be identified by their ‘Visitor Educator,’ ‘Ask Me,’ and ‘Free Tour Guide’ badges they wear in Sinhala, Tamil, and English. Although approaching a VE might not be every visitor’s preferred way of experiencing an exhibition, the VEs are present in the galleries to engage with those who have questions, or want to talk about artworks on display and do a tour of a gallery or the entire exhibition”.
VEs enable visitors to learn about and engage with the artworks on view, provide context, and introduce close-looking techniques through conversations, tours, and educational activities for children. VEs also support the care of the exhibits in the exhibition, observe health and safety protocols, and assist with the setup of its weekly public programmes. All VEs work part-time on a shift basis, with many of them fitting in their work alongside full-time jobs or studies in the education or arts and design sectors. Since the launch of the programme in December 2019, the museum has worked with over 40 VEs.
“Funding makes so much of what we do possible. While exhibitions are a central aspect of what we do, we rely on the dedication and commitment of our VEs to help break down the barriers for many audiences, who walk into our galleries and may not know how or where to begin taking in what they are looking at.” says Pereira. The VE programme is supported by the Foundation for Arts Initiatives (FfAI) and the Nations Trust Bank. Speaking about their support of the MMCA Sri Lanka, Sanjaya Senarath, Chief Marketing Officer at Nations Trust Bank PLC, echoes the importance of empowering the next generation of change-makers “As a strong supporter in promoting local art and artists, Nations Trust Bank looks forward to backing the initiatives taken by the MMCA Sri Lanka to expose Sri Lankan contemporary art to the new generation whilst uplifting local artists to the next level.”
Speaking about the preparation that goes into creating the VE programme, Goonetilleke, Curator Learning and Training at the MMCA Sri Lanka, says “Our Visitor Educators are a truly diverse group of young professionals. Some are educators in schools. Some maintain artistic practices in visual, literary, or performing arts. Some work/study in STEM fields but have a strong affinity for the arts and education. For all of them, however, this is the first time they are working in a museum context, and without realising it, helping to build the country’s first museum of modern and contemporary art through their important work.”
Those interested in working at the MMCA Sri Lanka in this role may email their CV to email@example.com.
Headline: Internships at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka
As a museum in the making, the MMCA Sri Lanka is preparing the ground for a new generation of museum professionals to work at and be involved in delivering exhibition and education programmes, within the context of a modern and contemporary art museum. One of the initiatives through which they are addressing this challenge, is their internship programme.
At present, the museum offers two types of internships: the University Internship Programme and the Young Professionals Internship Programme. In both cases, interns are given positions that involve working closely with one or more museum staff, and give the interns a taste of working life in a fast-paced museum setting.
To accompany the University Internship programme, the MMCA Sri Lanka staff are also involved in teaching students enrolled in degree or diploma programmes in Sri Lanka. The dual focus of the university-led programme enables students to gain practical experience in understanding how their studies apply to a professional museum setting. In today’s job market, a qualification is not enough. For many employers, work experience on the job is becoming more and more important. To-date, ten undergraduates from the Department of Fine Arts, University of Jaffna have interned to work on projects related to art history, education research, and translation.
For those interested in specific areas of work in a professional museum setting, the museum offers internships under a programme called Young Professional Internships. Since February 2022, the MMCA Sri Lanka has worked with twelve Young Professional Interns in the areas of exhibitions research, exhibition production, graphic design, digital projects, public programmes, education research, and education data analysis.
Speaking about the MMCA Sri Lanka’s internship programmes, Chief Curator Sharmini Pereira recalls, “Doing internships at museums was something I was eager to do but, which I did not think I would qualify for. We make a point of offering as many internships as possible at the MMCA Sri Lanka to encourage people to apply. As we continue to improve our internships, I am hopeful that these opportunities will cultivate career paths for young professionals who, like me, never considered a career working in the art industry.”
Inquiries about internships at the MMCA Sri Lanka should be directed to both firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Headline: The MMCA Sri Lanka partners with the George Keyt Foundation
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka showcases work of George Keyt, documenting and creating awareness on select paintings by the Sri Lankan artist
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) works with many lenders and private collectors to curate its exhibitions, with the objective of helping the public to learn more about modern and contemporary Sri Lankan art. In 2021, the museum was given access to the George Keyt Foundation Collection (GKF) which is installed in various offices of the John Keells Holdings Group. It was during this research visit that Chief Curator Sharmini Pereira and Curator Sandev Handy found inspiration for the MMCA Sri Lanka’s second exhibition ‘Encounters’, which places four paintings by Keyt at the centre of four displays of art.
Speaking about the partnership Pereira said, “It was a great opportunity to have a guided tour of George Keyt’s works by Chair of the GKF, Mike Antoniasz, and to see physical works by Keyt because there are no paintings by him on public display that are easily accessible seven days a week.” This observation was a key factor that led Pereira and Handy to consider the inclusion of works by Keyt in ‘Encounters’ which opened to the public in February 2022 and is free of charge.
“The GKF was established in 1988 in the lifetime of the artist and was founded on the principles of promoting the works of emerging artists and Sri Lankan art. We are thrilled to work with an organisation such as the MMCA Sri Lanka, that creates knowledge and documents the works of Sri Lankan artists. Over the years, the foundation has led many initiatives such as the annual ‘Kala Pola’, an open air art fair, the ‘Young Contemporaries’, ‘Nawa Kala Karuwo’, and the ‘Sri Lankan Art Exhibitions’. We aim to preserve the work done by Keyt and have produced several publications on his work, most notably a publication that commemorated Keyt’s Centennial anniversary in 2001,” said the Chairperson of the George Keyt Foundation Mike Antoniasz.
Speaking about the works displayed Handy commented, “George Keyt is such a well known name in Sri Lanka – yet the public have limited knowledge of his actual works, due to a lack of access to them other than through publications. While the published material is vast compared to many other modern Sri Lankan artists, there are only a few texts that look in detail at specific paintings. With the ‘Encounters’ exhibition we want to familiarise audiences with specific paintings by Keyt, choosing to look closely at four of his paintings namely ‘The Friends’ (1982) and ‘Pounding Paddy’ (1952) which were exhibited from 11 February to 22 May as part of ‘Encounters’ Rotation 1, and ‘The Offering (1949) and ‘Kandyan Bride’ (1951), which will be displayed as part of ‘Encounters’ Rotation 3 from 13 November 2022 until 19 March 2023.”
“Each of the four paintings provided Sharmini and I with the starting points for ‘Encounters’. We have created a conversation or ‘encounters’ with other artist’s works,” Sandev further noted, “which sees the inclusion of works by Pradeep Thalawatta (b.1979), Abdul Halik Azeez (b.1985), Aubrey Collette (1920–1992), Martin Wickramasinghe (1890–1976), Asai Rasaiyah (1946–2021), Richard Gabriel (1924–2016), Susiman Nirmalavasan (b.1982), A. Mark (1933–2000), Nelun Harasgama (b.1959), and Janani Cooray (b.1974).” The juxtapositioning of artworks that explore similar subject matter from artists of different generations has been championed by the MMCA Sri Lanka. The curatorial approach contributes to seeing and thinking about art historical narratives in new and unexpected ways.
One of the ongoing problems faced by the GKF is the costs for looking after their collection, which includes the conservation of the paintings and drawings by Keyt. As part of ‘Encounters’, four paintings by Keyt were successfully conserved. Speaking about the conservation work Udaya Hewawasam from ConsArt, commented “The biggest damage was to the wooden stretchers which were almost totally infected by insects (wood worms) thus providing no mechanical stability. In such cases there is no option other than to replace all the stretchers. Only one painting had large paint lost due to a flood. Fortunately, GKF provided a photograph of the painting before the damage occurred, which helped to reconstruct the exact area that had been lost.” Udaya Hewawasam is one of the most informed and experienced conservators of modern art in the country. Sharing Keyt’s work with the public could not have been done without the months of intensive conservation work performed by his conservation studio ConsArt.
One of the highlights of the conservation process was the discovery of information at the back of the paintings, including details from past exhibitions, and information on the paintings’ titles. Following standard conservation practises, Udaya confirmed how “After these labels were safely detached, they were de-acidified and then relocated to the back side of the painting in safe acid free sealed transparent cases.”
The MMCA Sri Lanka’s ambition to create a museum of modern and contemporary art is dependent on the work of such experts and professionals in the museum field, who help to reveal information about artworks that shape and inform how curators present the work of an artist.
‘Encounters’ is generously supported by the European Union, Foundation for Arts Initiatives, John Keells Foundation, and the Nations Trust Bank. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) is an education-led initiative that aims to establish a public museum dedicated to the display, research, collection, and conservation of modern and contemporary art for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public, schools, and tourists. Presenting curated exhibitions and education programmes, the MMCA Sri Lanka is the first publicly accessible trilingual venue of its kind in Sri Lanka.
For more information, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mmcasrilanka/
Headline: The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka Organises its First Museum Intensive Training Programme
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) is pleased to announce its first Museum Intensive programme, which has been conceived as a series of focused training programmes that address professional capacity-building needs within Sri Lanka’s cultural sector.
The MMCA Sri Lanka is working in partnership with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, and the Reinwardt Academy at the Amsterdam University of the
Arts, to deliver the first Museum Intensive which is generously supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Sri Lanka.
The Museum Intensive targets cultural sector professionals working in public and private art organisations, who work with collections of art and/or exhibition programmes. The programme will include a significant amount of discussion, project-based learning, and collaborative work amongst participants, who shall benefit from feedback and guidance provided by the visiting professionals from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and the Reinwardt Academy, with the support of the MMCA Sri Lanka staff.
The inaugural Museum Intensive looks at the subject of Audience Engagement, which has become one of the most significant areas of debate in the global cultural sector. The training programme has been designed to help participants become more familiar with common themes and current debates about audience engagement in order to help organisations they are affiliated with to make long-term commitments that enhance visitor experience, increase audiences, and build a greater public connection to the inspiring work they do.
“The facilitation team has great expertise on how to think about museums today. Their commitment, knowledge and immense energy are outstanding. With their full focus and stamina, I am sure that the upcoming training programmes are going to be highly successful. The Reinwardt Academy is truly looking forward to this upcoming collaborative training programme,” noted Ruben Smit, Senior Lecturer and Manager International Programmes at the Reinwardt Academy of the Amsterdam University of the Arts.
The first Museum Intensive training programme will take place in-person in Colombo, from 24—28 October 2022.
To apply, prospective participants should email their CV or résumé to firstname.lastname@example.org by or before the priority deadline of 5 October 2022. They may call +94 76 22 43 120 for further information.
Headline: Announcing the first ‘Museum Intensive’ organised by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) is an education-led initiative that aims to establish a public museum dedicated to the display, research, collection and conservation of modern and contemporary art for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public, schools, and tourists. Developing a professionally qualified team with skills and knowledge for all areas of a museum’s work is among MMCA Sri Lanka’s key priorities
To meet this challenge, in 2021, MMCA Sri Lanka conducted a study, funded by the Netherlands Embassy in Sri Lanka, that looked at the professional development landscape in Sri Lanka’s museum sector. The study highlighted several shortcomings regarding how museums interact or engage with audiences as part of the visitor experience. The research identified how exhibition design, public programmes, and social media contribute to the visitor experience but were not areas that museums were either investing in or recognising as important. The study drew attention specifically to the skills gaps and lack of professional museum expertise, particularly amongst younger professionals. As a next step, MMCA Sri Lanka is organising a series of ‘Museum Intensives’ (MI) for professionals in museums and collection-based cultural institutions in Sri Lanka. The programme aims to catalyse knowledge-sharing and professional development in under-explored areas in the sector.
Thanks to the Netherlands Embassy’s continued funding support, MMCA Sri Lanka will work with two primary partners, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), and the Reinwardt Academy (RA) for the first MI, which will focus on audience engagement. Key to the MI’s design and delivery, both Netherlands-based organisations bring a wealth of experience and international standards in museum training, having worked with partners internationally. The MI will hence strengthen cross-cultural knowledge and expertise sharing between professionally engaged learning organisations in Sri Lanka and the Netherlands, where the shift in focus is on mutual exchange rather than on a one-way conversation.
“The Embassy is proud and pleased to have partnered with MMCA Sri Lanka in this groundbreaking initiative. Sri Lanka has a rich culture in terms of history and heritage and contemporary and modern art. The MI will bring these two together, and engage Sri Lankan and Dutch professionals. It will be a unique opportunity to exchange, learn, and inspire. The project will help to strengthen the capacity of Sri Lankan museum professionals to preserve and promote their culture and to further engage current and future generations.”
— Tanja Gonggrijp, Ambassador for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Sri Lanka
The International Heritage Cooperation Programme’s mission is to create a worldwide heritage community, in which professionals connect, learn, and develop knowledge together towards finding solutions to shared challenges.
“We hope the MI will be the start of a long-term cooperation.”
— Yolanda Ezendam, Head of Collections, International Heritage Cooperation Programme of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands
Reinwardt Academy, based at the Faculty of Cultural Heritage at Amsterdam University of the Arts in the Netherlands, is the second oldest university in the world working in the international field of museum and heritage studies.
“The MMCA Sri Lanka team has great expertise on how to run a museum for our times. Their commitment, knowledge, and energy are outstanding. I am sure that the training programme is going to be highly successful.”
— Senior Lecturer and Manager International Programmes, Reinwardt Academy of the Amsterdam University of the Arts
The first Museum Intensive is planned to take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka in October 2022.
“As a museum in the making, our first few years have been spent learning and looking at how we can be relevant to the societies we are located within. The chance to share our learnings with others in the cultural sector feels timely; it encourages greater inter-museum exchanges and networks across the island. MMCA Sri Lanka is tremendously grateful to the Netherlands Embassy for supporting this initiative that will usher in new conversations about museums and provide career pathways for young professionals who would never have considered the museum sector as a career option.”
— Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator MMCA Sri Lanka
Presenting curated exhibitions and education programmes, MMCA Sri Lanka is the first publicly accessible trilingual venue of its kind in Sri Lanka. For more information, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram at instagram.com/mmcasrilanka for updates. For information about the Museum Intensive in particular, write to email@example.com.
Headline: Nations Trust Bank Partners with MMCA Sri Lanka as a Major Benefactor
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) is pleased to announce a new working relationship with Nations Trust Bank (NTB), who will be supporting the museum as a major benefactor for a period of three years, from 2022 to 2025.
Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka, speaking about the partnership said, “The museum is hugely grateful to NTB for its three years of support of the MMCA Sri Lanka. Their funding helps build the MMCA Sri Lanka which is a museum in the making. As we endeavour to build such an institution, we are also focused on building capacity by offering opportunities to a new generation to think about careers as young museum professionals. Empowering the next generation of professionals to tell stories through modern and contemporary art through exhibition-making, public programmes and digital engagement is essential if we are to be relevant to a society of young people that want change, prosperity and inspiring career opportunities in Sri Lanka.” MMCA Sri Lanka prides itself as a cultural initiative focused on building modern and contemporary art for the country and fostering learning and engagement for the public. Alongside its curated exhibitions and education programmes, the museum is the first publicly accessible trilingual cultural initiative in Sri Lanka.
Speaking about the partnership, Sanjaya Senarath, Chief Marketing Officer of Nations Trust Bank, said, “We are very proud to champion arts and culture in Sri Lanka by helping to support the MMCA Sri Lanka. The museum is the first of its kind and is helping to raise the bar in showcasing the work of our modern and contemporary artists in ways that have not been done before. We are committed to giving back to society, through our CSR activities, with a broader view of “Empowering Our Next Generation.”
For the past 22 years, Nations Trust Bank has supported a range of art-related activities in the country, leading the ways in which the private sector should. The Bank commits themselves to this initiative as an effort to create a sustainable tomorrow. Providing quality education is one of the key pillars of the Bank’s CSR policy which has been derived from the sustainability development goals set by the UN. This association will pave the way for the country’s next generation to enhance their knowledge on modern and contemporary art while helping develop future experts in this field.
Nations Trust Bank Private Banking creates solutions to satisfy the financial needs of the customer’s lifestyle. Focusing on three main criteria of wealth management, lifestyle and the next generation, Nations Trust Bank Private Banking provides an unparalleled array of products and services that cater to specific everyday requirements of their discerning clientele. Each product and service offer numerous benefits, allowing them to focus on the important task of creating “A Timeless Legacy”. Information on the Art Advisory Service for a creative investment can be seen at https://www.nationstrust.com/personal/exclusive-memberships/private-banking.
MMCA Sri Lanka is located at Crescat Boulevard, Colombo 3, and is open daily from 10am to 6pm, and until 8pm on Fridays. All events of the public programmes at the museum are free-of-charge. ‘Encounters’ is generously supported by Asian Hotels and Properties PLC, the European Union, Foundation for Arts Initiatives and the John Keells Foundation. For more information, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram at instagram.com/mmcasrilanka/ for updates.
Headline: An Audience Engaged Approach to Education: The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka
The exhibition ‘Encounters’ at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) completed the first of its three exhibition rotations on 22 May 2022. A total of 37 free public programmes were offered to engage audiences of all ages, taking inspiration from the artworks on display. Public programmes are specially curated by staff of the MMCA Sri Lanka and form a hugely important interface between the content in the galleries and the audience’s engagement with it.
The exhibition launched with contemporary artist Pradeep Thalawatta (b. 1979) speaking about his artwork ‘Athi Vishesha (Extra Special)’ (2008) and how it relates to ideas of friendship and love. Thalawatta’s work was on display as part ‘Encounters’ Rotation 1, placed in conversation with a painting by George Keyt (1901–1993), titled ‘The Friends’ (1982). Visitors were also given the opportunity to hear art historian T. Sanathanan pay homage to artist Asai Rasiah (1946–2020), whose work ‘(வாழ்க்கை) கைவினைஞன்’ ((Life) Craftsman) (1970) was on display in the same rotation. This was the first public talk about his work since his passing in 2020. Conversations were also held between art patron Malaka Talwatte and Chief Curator Sharmini Pereira about George Keyt and the various personal and professional influences that may have played significant roles in Keyt’s practice. All places for these free events were sold out, indicating a keen interest from local audiences to engage in discussions with and about artists that deserve greater critical attention.
The changing displays will foster further public events around the practice of Keyt, whose work will be featured again in Rotation 3 of ‘Encounters’ which will open on 19 October 2022. The MMCA Sri Lanka also organised four themed poetry readings about ideas of love and intimacy. Poets Malinda Seneviratne, Vivimarie Vanderpoorten, Phusathi Liyanaarachchi, Surekha Samarasena, Saumya Sandaruwan Liyanage, and Anar responded to artworks in Display 2 with poems in English, Sinhala, and Tamil. At an Open Mic event, young and emerging poets aged 16 to 21 read their poetry on the theme ‘intimacy’. The poetry events brought together a total of 40 participants and generated how interest in modern and contemporary art connects with poetry and the spoken word.
Pramodha Weerasekera, Assistant Curator Education and Public Programmes, said, “it is important to curate unique experiences that allow audiences to meaningfully engage with art. In Sri Lanka, we want to encourage a museum-going public. Our aim is to make this a reality in the long-term through regular events and experiences that are accessible and free-of-charge.” All these events are funded with the support of the European Union, the Foundation for Arts Initiatives and, the John Keells Foundation who view the investment in public programmes as essential to the impact that modern and contemporary art can have on society at large.
The public programmes at the MMCA Sri Lanka also place specific emphasis on activity-based learning experiences for younger audiences in the form of workshops. A workshop by Kiyawana Muddara for instance, trained young adults to learn history through stamps that have been released on various important moments in Sri Lanka. Stamps are some of the ephemera exhibited in Display 1, focusing on the Non-Aligned Movement, on view until 8 January 2023. Similarly, Artists Sabeen Omar and Shahdia Jamaldeen conducted a workshop about experimenting with storytelling using fabric, sewing and embroidery, taking inspiration from the much talked about artwork ‘White Curtain and Women’ (2016) by contemporary artist Susiman Nirmalavasan (b. 1982) which was on display as part of Rotation 1. Sharmi Thavayogarajah, Coordinator Education and Public Programmes, spoke of the workshops: “Visitors participate hoping to learn about various things, from history to mediums of art. They also want to relax after a long workday, for example, by learning to sew and embroider. Through such workshops, the exhibition space becomes more dynamic and participants end up engaging with the artworks on display without even realizing it.”
Alongside the public programmes, the MMCA Sri Lanka also works directly with schools and universities by organising visits for students that cater to their curriculum needs. In the first three months of ‘Encounters’, the museum hosted up to 78 school students and 116 university students. Curator Sandev Handy spoke is interested in the way the MMCA Sri Lanka “can think of the galleries of the museum as classrooms, where learning can go hand in hand with reflection, loitering and playfulness; hopefully encouraging students to return with friends outside of school hours.” The MMCA Sri Lanka team is not only made up of exhibition curators but also curators of education, learning and training. Three dedicated staff members are involved in ongoing discussions with school teachers and university lecturers about the numerous ways in which the MMCA Sri Lanka can work with the formal education sector and how in turn students start to think about the museum industry as a career path.
Entry to the museum alongside all of its events is free. Visitors are encouraged to stay updated about all our events via the museum’s website www.mmca-srilanka.org and social medias: Facebook www.facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram www.instagram.com/mmcasrilanka/. For any queries about its education and public programmes visitors may also write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Headline: Artist Pradeep Thalawatta and Friends Speak about Extra Special Friendships at MMCA Sri Lanka
On Friday, 20 May from 6 pm to 7 pm, Pradeep Thalawatta (b. 1979) and five of his friends who appear in his artwork, ‘Athi Vishesha (Extra Special II)’ made in 2008 will be in conversation at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka).
Friendships shape and form each of us. The MMCA Sri Lanka’s current exhibition ‘Encounters’ takes the idea of friendship as a starting point for a display that places Thalawatta’s work in conversation with a painting by George Keyt (1901-1993) on loan from the George Keyt Foundation art collection. Both works explore the subject of friendship as something that is not only special but also intimate. The pairing of artworks by the MMCA Sri Lanka’s curators brings attention to the way this timeless subject has been explored by artists from different generations and through different media. Seeing the two artworks opposite one another invites comparisons about how the subject of intimacy is represented. Keyt’s painting, titled ‘The Friends’ from 1982, depicts a blurring between male and female and the two heads appear to be more intimate than friends. Both works draw attention to the physical and sensual aspects of friendship, whilst also pointing to the ways in which such friendships are understood and seen through the same gender.
Join the discussion at the MMCA Sri Lanka, located at Crescat Boulevard, Colombo 03, on Friday, 20 May 2 at 6 pm. All events of the public programme at the museum are free-of-charge. ‘Encounters’ is generously supported by Asian Hotels and Properties PLC, the European Union, Foundation for Arts Initiatives, John Keells Foundation, and Nations Trust Bank. The MMCA Sri Lanka is a cultural initiative focused on building a museum of modern and contemporary art for the country and fostering learning and engagement for as wide a public as possible. To complement its curated exhibitions and education programmes, the museum practices trilingual access and is one of the only cultural institutions to do so in Sri Lanka.
For more information, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mmcasrilanka/ for updates.
Headline: MMCA Sri Lanka Extends Rotation 1 of ‘Encounters’
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) has extended Rotation 1 of its current exhibition ‘Encounters’ until 22 May 2022. The three artworks that provide the starting points for Rotation 1 include one painting by Senaka Senanayake (b. 1951) and two paintings by George Keyt (1901–1993) titled ‘The Friends’ (1982) and ‘Pounding Paddy’ (1952). The two paintings by Keyt provide the starting points for two displays that explore stories and ideas about love, intimacy, friendship, and family. The museum has extended this rotation by over a month to allow audiences more opportunities to visit the exhibition and look at artworks by Pradeep Thalawatta (b. 1979) in relation to Keyt’s ‘The Friends’ and further artworks by Asai Rasiah (1946–2020), Richard Gabriel (1924–2016) and Susiman Nirmalavasan (b. 1982) in relation to Keyt’s ‘Pounding Paddy’.
The MMCA Sri Lanka, located at Crescat Boulevard, Colombo 03, is open all seven days of the week from 10 am to 6 pm. Entrance to the museum and participation at all events in its public programmes are free-of-charge. For visitors who cannot visit during daytime opening hours, the museum is open until 8 pm on Fridays. The museum is easily accessible by both private and public transport.
‘Encounters’ is generously supported by the European Union, Foundation for Arts Initiatives, John Keells Foundation, Asian Hotels and Properties PLC, and Nations Trust Bank. The MMCA Sri Lanka is a cultural initiative focused on building a museum of modern and contemporary art for the country and fostering learning and engagement for as wide a public as possible. To complement its curated exhibitions and education programmes, the museum practices trilingual access, and is one of the only cultural institutions to do so in Sri Lanka.
For more information, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mmcasrilanka/ for updates.
Headline: Art as a medium of #Breakingthebias
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka’s current exhibition “Encounters” aims to structure a sequence of changing displays that bring together six encounters between artworks and ephemera from the 1950s to the present. The exhibition questions if a chance encounter between one thing and another alters how something familiar or commonplace is otherwise seen? Can two artworks placed side by side reveal something new about each of them? Putting on another set of lenses, one can argue that through the artwork and ephemera on display that the presence of women and their representation in society is boldly and sometimes subtly expressed. In conjunction with International Women’s Day and the theme #Breakthebias, “Encounters” highlights the presence of women and brings to focus the breaking of bias subconsciously and consciously in Sri Lanka.
A stark reflection of this can be observed in the first body of artworks, artefacts and literary publications that highlight the events from the 5th Non-Aligned Summit Conference held in Colombo in 1976. In 1961, against the brewing Cold War tensions between pro-Soviet or pro-American countries, a coalition of nations formed the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to recognize their shared independence struggles. Sirimavo Bandaranaike at the time was Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and was Chairman of the summit. Specially produced stamps with the portrait of Sirimavo Bandaranaike were issued at that period and one could question in today’s context if this was done with a view of breaking a bias in terms of the fact that was the world’s first female prime minister, when she became Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 1960, going on to server three terms in national politics: 1960–1965, 1970–1977 and 1994–2000. The BMICH was gifted to Sri Lanka in 1970 by the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai (1898–1976) in response to a request from then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Sirimavo Bandaranaike for a fully equipped conference hall as part of her preparations to host the conference. The stamp serves as a reminder of the strong diplomatic ties between nations amidst the tensions and the strength of a leader hosting the summit in this instance Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Here again, the symbolism of these acts showcases the constant presence of female leadership within a perceived patriarchal society.
Another set of poignant artworks representing the family unit from the 1950s to the present day with a painting by George Keyt (1901–1993) from 1952 of an agricultural family pounding paddy, its vivid colours and stylised figures contrasts with the realistically observed working-class family by Asai Rasiah (1946–2020) from 1970. Both paintings describe the family in relation to acts of labour, with the female figure additionally involved with the labour of motherhood. In contrast and by extension, the works by
Richard Gabriel (1924–2016) and Susiman Nirmalavasan (b. 1982) convey what happens and what is yearned for when a family unit is torn apart, by internal or external disputes. All these bodies of work when viewed together and separately bring the audience’s attention to the women in the family and one may sense the enormous role of the woman being in the labour of love for her family or being the missing link that connects and builds society at large.
Art has always been a medium of expression that has captured the essence of any community or society. #Breakingthebias will only be further enhanced and realized if we continue to allow for varying mediums of art to be showcased especially those that capture and frame how women have been represented in society. The Museum of Contemporary Modern Art Sri Lanka aims to continue the dialogue and discussion around all things gender, keeping an open mind through the varying artists and artforms that come through its doors.
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka is a cultural initiative focused on building a museum of modern and contemporary art for the country and fostering learning and engagement for as wide a public as possible. Alongside its curated exhibitions and education programmes, the museum is the first publicly accessible trilingual venue of its kind in Sri Lanka. For more information, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook facebook.com/mmcasrilanka and Instagram instagram.com/mmcasrilanka/ for updates.
Headline: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka – ROTATION 1
A review by Arun Dias-Bandaranaike
Confluence, conflict, confusion and comprehension- were literary ‘signals’ that flowed through my consciousness, as I perused the exhibits at this presentation, “Encounters”, hosted by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA) .
Let me begin with ‘comprehension’. Ceylon, in the 20th century, was headed toward its own self-discovery and the vanguard was formed of artists, writers and creative souls with different motivations, facilities, ability and levels of awareness of history, and geography; convinced as they were, of the relevance of this island in the firmament of world culture. The Exhibition compellingly presented evidence these creative energies belonged to intellectuals; persons imbued with a sense and a purpose.
I was made aware that in as much as there was Tagore in Bengal, and W.E.B. du Bois defined the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance and its Afro-American verity, Ceylon too, had compelling personalities who drew, painted, sculpted and wrote, effectively calling attention to the uniqueness of the land on which they strode.
Those individuals whose work was selected to represent the period following ‘independence’, had sought to find confluence after the rupture of empire, and they formed alliances and sought fresh avenues to reach out to more of the world than was found in the Atlantic power-alliance and ‘old’ Europe and the colonial experiments, which had wrought much influence in this island over several centuries.
In art, as early as in 1943, the now famous group of painters had already charted a course that recognised the ethos of the people of Lanka. Samples were included of George Keyt and also Aubrey Collette’s telling “social commentary” through art. The earthy impact of Richard Gabriel’s singular style impacts with his own narrative.
In their own way, they dealt with the conflict and confusion in a self-identity of Lanka as emerging ‘nation’. “Encounters” also powerfully projects the idea that long since 1948, the land is still beset by the same unstable tectonics and fractured fault-lines. The sometimes hideous and generally egregious cultural divisions and class-consciousness, privations and exclusion of segments in what could be a unified society, remain as saddening subjects of several of the works of contemporary artists, and, the symbols of culture such as the “Lotus” are given a degree of treatment fore and aft.
The Bandung conference in the 1950s (Collette’s take) was the issuing of the call to make something of a once-colonised polity, with its own signature, and similarly in 1976, the same energy was on display, as Non Aligned nations strove to grapple with inequity both in geo-politics and the economics of the ‘south’ and convened in Colombo. Martin Wickramasinghe’s pithy prose (Viragaya) contributed its own clarity of vision, and the efforts of Ratna Deshpariya Senanayake, through his contra-colonial leaning, built a body of significant work under the Afro-Asian Writers’ Bureau of which he was a prime mover. He was one who also linked with the academics of W.E.B. du Bois’ widow, who continued to nourish the legacy of the African sensibilities and pride in negritude awakened by her husband in the 1920s.
How wonderful that these disparate elements are found in the same space at ‘Encounters’ at the MMCA Sri Lanka located at Crescat Boulevard, Colombo 03! Viewers at MMCA Sri Lanka will be rewarded with seeing what Ceylon was and how much of the same prevails in ‘Sri’ Lanka or is lost.
Headline: Art and Architecture exhibitions highlight a thriving arts scene
– Six of the country’s leading arts organisations announce projects and events that celebrate Art, Architecture and Design during the first half of 2022
The year 2022 marks the start of a series of important and unmissable art and architecture events taking place in Colombo involving artists from across the country and internationally. Six of Sri Lanka’s leading arts organizations are coming together to raise awareness and promote their respective projects to the city’s residents and returning tourists. Each of their upcoming projects clearly positions Colombo as a must-see destination for local and international art. The participating galleries and institutions are Colomboscope, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka), the Geoffrey Bawa Trust, the John Keells Foundation in partnership with the George Keyt Foundation, Saskia Fernando Gallery and Barefoot Gallery Colombo.
Natasha Ginwala, Artistic Director, Colomboscope, speaking at the event said, “We are celebrating the seventh edition of the interdisciplinary art festival Colomboscope that will be the first event to start off art events in the city from 21 to 30 January 2022. This edition of the festival will bring together over 50 Sri Lankan and international artists, especially fostering South Asian dialogue and encounters with cultural practitioners from the diaspora with exhibitions and events spread over six locations in Colombo. Embarking from the words of poet-artist Cecilia Vicuña: ‘Language is Migrant’ – artistic and literary contributions map hybrid belonging, diasporic lineages, and coerced dislocation. Across six chapters, this edition explores how language relations form our selfhood and affinities that outweigh the bind of nationhood and citizenship. Between the counterpoints of stillness and motion, we situate practices that critically explore emancipatory and forced mobility—for we cannot deny that the world as we know it is composed of movement at galactic, human, and atomic levels. Artists compose, decipher and perform as vital travellers and storytellers of our times. Often, repairing relations by drawing material articulations from deep losses, silence and erasures while inventing language forms as bridges between communal narratives, official records, and submerged histories.”
The second event, will be by The Geoffrey Bawa Trust, and will commence on February 01st, 2022. It is Essential to be There is the first major exhibition that draws from the archives to look at Bawa’s practice. Organised in four thematic sections, exploring relationships between ideas, drawings, buildings and places, the exhibition explores the different ways in which images were used in Bawa’s practice. Over 120 documents from the Bawa archives, most of which have previously never been shown publicly, will be on view, including a section on unbuilt work and Bawa’s own photographs from his travels. Although Bawa’s work has been exhibited at multiple venues in the UK, USA, Australia, India, Brazil, Singapore and Germany, this is the first exhibition on Bawa’s work to be shown in Sri Lanka. The exhibition is curated by the Geoffrey Bawa Trust’s curator Shayari de Silva, and includes new photographs and video works by Sebastian Posingis, Dominic Sansoni and Clara Kraft Isono. The exhibition is on view from 1 February until 3 April, 2022 at The Stables at Park Street Mews in Colombo 02. Open daily from 11 a.m.–7 p.m., it is presented in English, Sinhala and Tamil languages. The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive public programme of talks, tours and workshops as well as a website with additional digital content to enhance accessibility of the works on view. This exhibition received generous financial support from the primary partner Kohler, local partners Nations Trust Private Banking, Crystal Property Group, JAT Holdings and the venue partner, Park Street Mews.
Speaking at the event Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka, said, “We are delighted to work alongside such a stellar lineup of arts organizations in Sri Lanka to promote art and architecture in the country. We hope this drive creates awareness about the high calibre and diversity of art activities taking place in Sri Lanka. MMCA Sri Lanka will be launching our second exhibition titled ‘Encounters’. The exhibition will run from 11 February to 28 August 2022 and will be presented at our new location inside Crescat Boulevard. ‘Encounters’ brings together 56 artworks as part of an exciting series of changing displays that draw from the art collections of the George Keyt Foundation and John Keells Holdings as the starting point. The exhibition will include work by 18 modern and contemporary artists and will include a 6-month trilingual public programme that is free and open to everyone. ‘Encounters’ is generously supported by the John Keells Foundation, the European Union and the Foundation for Arts Initiatives. Artworks have been kindly loaned to the exhibition from collectors in Sri Lanka and internationally.
John Keells Foundation, the CSR entity of John Keells Group, announced that they together with The George Keyt Foundation are organising the open-air Kala Pola event in August/September 2022. In 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Kala Pola went online for the first time on www.srilankanartgallery.com hosted by John Keells Foundation, and following its success and to continue to empower artists during the pandemic, Kala Pola went online once again in the form of a Christmas Edition in December. Kala Pola has evolved as an eagerly anticipated event in the arts and culture calendar of Sri Lanka providing a platform for over 300 visual artists to connect with over 30,000 visitors from around the world each year, as a launchpad for emerging artists and a forum for artists and art professionals to network and learn while promoting public social dialogue through the powerful medium of art.
John Keells Foundation also noted that the Gratiaen Trust – which it partners as primary sponsor – will be organizing the annual Gratiaen Prize event in late June/early July and is also planning a series of events to mark its 30th anniversary this year. The Trust was founded by Sri Lankan-Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje with his Booker prize money for `The English Patient’ and its objective is to promote Sri Lankan creative writing in English and translations of Sinhala and Tamil literature into English. Its flagship event is the Gratiaen Prize which is awarded annually to the best work of creative writing in English submitted by a Sri Lankan resident in the country.
For the first quarter of 2022, in addition to the monthly calendar of exhibitions, Saskia Fernando Gallery (SFG) is pleased to announce the participation of artists Chandraguptha Thenuwara and Saskia Pintelon in the forthcoming Venice Biennale 2022, Italy. The installations by both artists will be a part of the Personal Structures Exhibition presented by the European Cultural Centre Venice. This January, SFG is also kicking off the first projects of the A4A Production Fund, established in 2021 in collaboration with the Udayshanth Fernando Foundation, with the aim of lending support to emerging contemporary Sri Lankan artists. The fund will support three Sri Lankan artists in the creation, exhibition and publication of their selected project. Finally, the #SupportLocalArt Talk Series supported by Nations Trust Bank Private Banking, established in 2021 with the intention of creating a much needed platform for conversation on the developments of the Sri Lankan art industry, will establish an independent youtube channel as an archive of previous talks and in keeping with the objective of the talk platform to engage the entire industry, SFG will be passing the baton to the MMCA for the next round of conversations.
Puja Srivastava, Manager, Barefoot Gallery Colombo, speaking on the happenings at the gallery added, “Barefoot was established in 1993 and has been a progressive gallery. We have been known as a venue for various contemporary and modern Sri Lankan artists, we also direct the work of artists from overseas. An exciting new development is the revival of the area above the Gallery known as THE BAREFOOT LOFT. Our objective with The Loft is to enable the Gallery to expand and showcase more artworks and all other forms of expression – turning this intimate loft into a working area.”
Celebrate art in Colombo from January to August 2022, to find out more information on each of the events log on to the websites mentioned below.
– Colombo Scope visit www.colomboscope.lk
– The Geoffrey Bawa Trust visit bawaexhibition.com
– Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka visit mmca-srilanka.org/new-home
– Kala Pola hosted by John Keells Foundation visit www.srilankanartgallery.com
– Saskia Fernando Gallery visit www.saskiafernandogallery.com
– The Barefoot Gallery Colombo visit barefootceylon.com/gallery/
Headline: The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka Announces its Second Exhibition Titled ‘Encounters’
– ‘Encounters’ is an exhibition of Sri Lankan modern and contemporary art that will be launched in February.
– The exhibition will bring together six encounters between artworks from the 1950s and the present.
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) announces the launch date of its second exhibition titled ‘Encounters’. The exhibition will be open from 11 February to 28 August 2022, and will be presented at the museum’s new venue at Crescat Boulevard. ‘Encounters’ will be structured as a sequence of changing displays bringing together six ‘encounters’ between works of art created between the 1950s and the present by various artists such as George Keyt, Pradeep Thalawatta, Nelun Harasgama, Senaka Senanayake, Abdul Halik Azeez, and Janani Cooray.
The artworks and ephemera that will be showcased as part of ‘Encounters’ revolve around, and respond to, specially chosen paintings drawn from the John Keells and George Keyt Foundation Collections. ‘Encounters’ provides the public with a rare opportunity to view several artworks from two of the country’s most important collections of art.
Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka, said, “we are excited to announce the launch of our second exhibition. The past two years have not been ideal for exhibition programming around the world, with the unexpected travel restrictions and lockdowns. So, we are really pleased that we can begin this year with a newly curated exhibition which includes 46 artworks by approximately 18 artists along with historically important magazines and photographs. The exhibition has been curated as a series of changing six displays, where five displays are on view for approximately two months and one display will remain on view for the entire six months. We encourage visitors to return to the exhibition for each display changeover as each ‘encounter’ will be different to the previous one.”
During the duration of ‘Encounters’, the MMCA Sri Lanka will be open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 6pm. Entrance to the museum and participation at all events in its public programme will be free-of-charge. For visitors who cannot easily visit during daytime opening hours, the museum will be open until 8pm on Fridays. The museum is easily accessible by public and private transport at its new venue with ample parking available.
‘Encounters’ is generously supported by the European Union, Foundation for Arts Initiatives, John Keells Foundation, and Asian Hotels and Properties PLC.
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka is a cultural initiative focused on building a museum of modern and contemporary art for the country and fostering learning and engagement for as wide a public as possible. Alongside its curated exhibitions and education programmes, the museum is the first publicly accessible trilingual venue of its kind in Sri Lanka. For more information, visit www.mmca-srilanka.org or follow them on Facebook and Instagram for updates.
02 December 2021
Headline: The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka Opens in a Newly Designed Public Venue
– Sri Lanka’s first museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art will be shifting its location to Crescat Boulevard, Colombo 03
– Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka moves location to be more accessible to the general public
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka), the country’s first public museum committed to the display, research, collection and conservation of modern and contemporary art moved to Crescat Boulevard in November 2021. The move to its new location meets its objective of being more accessible to the general public, schools and tourists. The MMCA Sri Lanka was launched in 2019 as a not-for-profit organisation and receives local and international funding. Its first exhibition attracted over 3500 visitors. In addition to hosting 37 school and university groups from across the country. The museum hosted 165 free public events, 11 kids workshops, and 12 trilingual talks by artists, educators and curators during the course of the exhibition.
Speaking of the location change, Ajit Gunewardene, Chair of the MMCA Sri Lanka Committee said, “the MMCA Sri Lanka’s decision to move to Crescat Boulevard was a strategic one. As a museum in the making, it adds huge value to Colombo’s development post-pandemic. Crescat provides an easily accessible, non-intimidating setting that is a good fit for MMCA Sri Lanka.”
Nayana Mawilmada, Sector Head of the Property Group of John Keells Holdings speaking about the partnership said, “we are delighted to host MMCA Sri Lanka at the newly revamped Crescat Mall. With its central and easily accessible location, Crescat will offer MMCA Sri Lanka an opportunity to showcase the country’s contemporary art to a wide audience. It brings an essential cultural attraction to enhance Colombo’s tourism offering and we believe that visitors to the mall will enjoy using the multifactorial activities now offered. With its thought-provoking exhibits and programming for children and adults, we are happy to partner with the museum in showcasing the rich history and social discourses of our society.”
Sharmini Pereira, Chief Curator, MMCA Sri Lanka, said, “MMCA Sri Lanka is not the first museum to be located in a shopping mall––there is a history of art spaces being located inside retail environments, especially across Asia, in countries like Japan, India and China. Our new location provides us with countless opportunities to reach audiences who would not otherwise venture into museums of modern and contemporary art. We encourage people to follow us over social media because we have plenty of unmissable events lined up over the next six months. Our goal is to once again create a unique, museum-quality experience that not only raises awareness about the country’s modern and contemporary art but also raises the profile of the city of Colombo itself.”
Crescat Boulevard is located at the heart of Colombo 03, with easy access points from Galle Road and Sri Uttarananda Mawatha. MMCA Sri Lanka is due to open its second exhibition in February 2022, in a 3,800sq. ft space on the second floor of Crescat Boulevard.
MMCA Sri Lanka is founded upon the values of learning and discovery and is committed to artists past and present, living and working across the country and internationally. Alongside its curated exhibitions and education programmes, the museum is the first publicly accessible trilingual venue of its kind in Sri Lanka.