Museum of the Future: Portable and Personal

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Museum of the Future: Portable and Personal

Credit Dayanita Singh/Steidl

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Dayanita Singh is a photographer, but creating images is just a fraction of her artistic practice.

“I’d say making photographs is 10 percent of the work and maybe 70 percent is editing—ruthless, ruthless editing,” she said. “Then comes the sequencing and along the way comes the form.”

In the last decade, form has been at the center of Ms. Singh’s creative pursuits. Her most recent endeavors, which she calls “book-objects,” simultaneously comprise a book, an object for display, an exhibition and a catalog of that exhibition. Small, portable and endlessly customizable, they are, she proposes, the museums of the future.

“I wanted the mass-produced quality of publishing and the uniqueness of the art gallery,” she said. “But I wanted to make it accessible.”

The first of these experiments, “Sent a Letter,” published in 2008, takes the form of a handmade box filled with seven photographic diaries of Ms. Singh’s travels in India. The diaries are accordion-fold, allowing readers to create their own “mini private exhibition.” Published in 2015, “Museum of Chance” takes from her archives 88 images, which appear in random pairs on the front and back covers. Placed in custom-made wooden structures and mounted on a wall, a full set can be presented as an exhibition. Ms. Singh often transports the books in leather suitcases, which she calls the Suitcase Museum.

Ms. Singh’s most recent work, “Museum Bhavan,” was born as an exhibition consisting of nine “museums” with prints housed in folding wooden structures. The flexible architecture allows Ms. Singh to change the prints on display, and she often takes advantage of the opportunity. When they’re not traveling to art institutions around the world, the museums are…

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