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A 3D chimpanzee portrait at the Click Art Museum.
A 3D chimpanzee portrait at the Click Art Museum.

A visit to India’s first 3D museum

India's first interactive 3D, trick-art museum, which opened recently in Chennai, has some interesting work on display

An ancient Greek legend talks about a contest between two of the finest painters of that time: Zeuxis and Parrhasius. Both men painted pictures that were exceedingly lifelike. Zeuxis once painted a bunch of grapes that looked so real that a flock of birds began to peck at the painting.

Parrhasius, however, won hands down. He took Zeuxis to a curtain and told him to unveil his work, which he said lay behind the curtain. When Zeuxis attempted to do so, he realized that the curtain itself was the work.

While the works at the Click Art Museum, India’s first interactive 3D, trick-art museum, which opened in Chennai on 2 May, are not quite so deceptive, there is some interesting work.

To create the illusion, it is important to get the right perspective, believes A.P. Sreethar, who conceptualized and created the private museum in association with the owners of the VGP Snow Kingdom, a theme park, where it is located. “There is a viewer photo point and a footmark near each painting where you should stand," he says. Once you do, it looks like you are one with the painting. “This is the point of the whole exercise," explains Sreethar, adding that the picture is complete only when the viewer becomes part of it.

Though trick art, or trompe l’oeil (deceive the eye), as it is called in French, has been around for over 2,000 years, it became an established art form in the Renaissance period, when the discovery of perspective in the 14th century triggered the use of elaborate visual manipulations in painting and architecture.

A lot of the work that covers the walls of the 2,000 sq. ft museum gives a sense of the European Renaissance Art movement, but with a smidgen of quirkiness. Mona Lisa, for instance, continues to be an enigmatic presence, with her beguiling smile, but she is pouring out a cup of coffee. “(Leonardo) Da Vinci is a role model. I have an entire series of Mona Lisa (artworks). I chose characters that people already know about so they can relate to them easily," says Sreethar.

Take Mama U Wanna Hate Me, for instance, which is vaguely reminiscent of Titian’s and Rubens’ Fall Of Man. A cowering Eve, all long curls and voluptuous, and a densely muscled Adam, both swathed in bright green foliage, confront the consequence of their action—Adam has already eaten the forbidden fruit, which drops out of the frame. And if you stand close enough (and at the spot indicated), you can almost catch it. Or eat it. Or so it would seem in a photograph.

There are other equally entertaining pictures: The Greek god Atlas offers you a diamond; a dolphin leaps out of a gilt-edged frame; a bearded man in a velveteen doublet hands you an Oscar, and Bruce Lee delivers a kick so powerful that it shatters the frame.

There are art installations too. Honey, Shrink Yourself uses angles and distance to reduce a bystander to Lilliputian proportions (it is illusionary, of course), while Venice Is Not Far, through a clever mix of 3D artwork and a crafted wooden installation resembling a boat, allows you to imagine yourself drifting through the canals of Venice in a gondola.

“I regularly visit Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Phuket and wanted to plan something similar in India," says Sreethar, adding that only 42 places in 12 countries, including the Alive Museum in Singapore and the Trick Eye Museum in Hongdae, Seoul, South Korea, have something similar. He plans to change the paintings every year. “I have done over 64 art shows so far, but I realize that most people do not connect with paintings. But in this collection, they will, for you yourself become part of it."

The Click Art Museum is in the VGP Snow Kingdom, East Coast Road, Chennai. Entry, 100 (children) and 150 (adults).

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