To foster and promote public understanding and appreciation of Sri Lankan Modern and Contemporary art

To converse through art, is to create: a story, an interest, an awareness and moreover, a culture. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is built on the foundation of the concept to educate and foster a culture between individuals of a society and educate a larger collective on the significance of the nuances that stem from the roots of modern and contemporary art. The Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art Sri Lanka (MMCA) was launched on the 12th December, in Colombo. The Museum, a privately funded not-for-profit initiative is led by a highly-skilled founding committee and made up of leading international curators, professionals and industry leaders. It will be the country's first public museum and collection committed to the research, conservation, display and study of modern and contemporary art for the educational benefit of the public.

Speaking on the purpose behind the setting up of the museum, Ruhanie Perera, curator, Education and Public Engagement for the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art said “Education is at the heart of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka in terms of how we intend to work with our communities and contexts. This will be a public museum dedicated to the display, education, research, and conservation of modern and contemporary art, where education will underpin and drive our work at every level. Our work over the coming years will be informed by a commitment we make to inclusivity, collaboration, sustainability, and transformation. We open with a special preview for educators tomorrow, and roll out our targeted schools and universities program in January where we will welcome teachers and students to the museum. These are the beginnings of conversation that we want to learn from and grow.”

The museum will be housed temporarily on the 17th floor of the Colombo Innovation Tower and has chosen to launch this initiative with an exhibition titled „One Hundred Thousand Small Tales‟ curated by Sharmini Pereira. “Our launch is an exhibition that I was asked to curate in 2016 and was shown last year at the Dhaka Art Summit. This was the exhibition the committee felt appropriate for this inaugural launch exhibition for this initiative. The exhibition has 43 artists, and over 150 works in it. What‟s also defining about it is that it takes a stab at trying to look at the history of what has happened in Sri Lanka from an art production side, starting from the 1930s to the present. What‟s interesting is how it‟s narrated through individual artworks. When I was researching it, I was looking for single, specific works from the artists. We‟re looking at an artist‟s practice through individual works. And that‟s how exhibitions and museums are put together,” said Sharmini. The exhibition is free and open to all and will be accompanied by an education and public engagement program for the exhibitions‟ 3 month duration (12th December, 2019 – 12th March 2020).

The first exhibition of the „Museum in the Making‟ initiative is being funded by private individuals including the John Keels foundation which has over 30 years history of supporting arts and culture in Sri Lanka. The long term sustainability of this initiative will however require more widespread funding including public and corporate membership and endowments.

“It was clear to us that the museums of Sri Lanka have sought to preserve our past glory, at the exclusion of our modern and contemporary histories. Globally, museums are now striving to be places where all sections of society can be reflected in its collections, displays and educational programming. Sri Lanka‟s rich historic culture gives credence to the island to lead the way in the region as a modern and contemporary museum destination,” said Ajith Gunewardene, Chair, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka, founding committee. 

Through a strong education focus that celebrates diversity inclusivity and new voices, the museum will champion the new art histories related to art, architecture, craft, design and film from the modern period to the contemporary. Embracing inclusivity which is at the heart of its existence, the MMCA will follow a trilingual policy on all written materials. The MMCA also intends to build a permanent home for itself to house a collection of Modern and Contemporary Art, which will be the first publicly accessible collection of its kind in Sri Lanka. The Museum will also start to address the urgent conservation needs faced by many of the country‟s important modern and contemporary artworks.


13th December, 2019 Visual Art | Conceptual