Tejshvi Jain is a museum expert who is the founder of Rereeti, an organisation working to remould the current structure of Indian art museums to bring them at par with international standards. Tejshvi has received several international fellowships and honorary invites. She is the first Indian to be selected for KULTURsekretariat’s European programme. She speaks about her work and vision with Prerna SM Jain.
How did your tryst with art and work at National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) begin?
Art was something I was interested in since my childhood, whether it was visual art or performing art. When I was teaching at Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain College I was requested to join the NGMA. Interestingly, while I was teaching, I would pick up my son from school on my way to college. He would have with him his colours, crayons and books. He would sit at the back of the class when I was teaching. Once I finished, we would go for his skating and swimming classes. That’s how I balanced my work with my role as mother.
Could you talk about your training abroad and its takeaways?
I was fortunate enough to have attended courses in London and Germany. The training at the Victoria and Albert Museum was truly life-changing, because that’s when I learnt about the entire museum ecosystem. V&A has been such a huge influence on me that I am now unable to think small, so I think big. It also taught me to re-question everything and have the community as an integral part of decision-making. For example, we had a lot of trees at the NGMA, but nothing was known about them. So just by labelling them and getting more information, we could do regular community walks around the arboretum and create new interests.
Is there a stereotyped perception of museums and why?
In comparison to international museums, yes, we are lacking. The fault lies within the museums as they appear to be boring and dead spaces. If you rewind to 20 years ago, little to no information was given and it didn’t make you think or show you a different perspective. Nowadays you see a change; there is a stronger design component in the museum and exhibition space. They are getting the community more involved now. It is also ideas like loan boxes, which are popular abroad. It is a box of museum replicas which is related to a collection or subject along with instructions. The teachers just loan it out for, say, one week and then it is returned back. So that’s one way by which museums could reach out. I feel now is a good time for museums to think that way, especially post Covid-19.
How are you spending your time during the lockdown?
Well, I’ve been very busy. The work is not very different except that we don’t meet as a team and we are not at physical spaces and sites. I am also talking to museum directors to discuss the current situation and how museums are strategising their approach for after the lockdown.
Which books are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading two. One is related to our next travelling exhibition which is on Partition. Urvashi Butalia’s The Other Side of Silence is about that. The other one was given to me as a gift, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Noah Harari.
What is your advice for museum attendees?
Viewers can now go to Google Art and access museum collections online. The NCPA has opened online access to all of its previous events, so people can enjoy it from the comforts of their home. People should personalise the kind of events they want to see through the internet and when you go to museums physically, ask the staff to show you around, as they have in-depth knowledge to make it more enriching for you.