The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), which is spread across seven acres, is perhaps the only museum and exhibition space in the world that is located in the heart of the city. Inaugurated in the year 1954 at Jaipur House, near India Gate, it enjoys the attention of thousands of passers-by everyday.
Till two years ago, it only had the space of Jaipur House to hold all the major exhibitions. After rigorous work and planning, the gallery came up with three new spacious blocks in the year 2009. As the gallery hosts an exhibition of world renowned installation artist Anish Kapoor, we take you on a round to the swanky NGMA building.
This butterfly-shaped building with a central dome was built in 1936. It is known to be styled after a concept of the Central Hexagon visualised by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The first exhibition that took place, showcased sculptures by prominent sculptors of that time, such as Debi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, Sankho Chaudhuri, Sarbari Roy Chowdhury and others.
The show was curated by a German art historian, Goetz. The place is divided into the left and the right wing and has a credit list of hosting some of the major exhibitions of varied artists, such as Nicolas Roerich, Rabindranath Tagore and Homai Vyarawalla.
The New Wing
This comprises three blocks. Block 1 is the storehouse of all the museum collections. The National Museum of India at Janpath, plays host to all the works of art before 1857, NGMA is a repository of 17,000 modern and contemporary art forms since 1857. Spread over four floors and two side wings, the collection, titled ‘… in the seeds of time’, comprises paintings, sculptures, graphics and photographs. But it’s the side wings that comprise huge eye-catching artworks by contemporary artists. The ground floor of this block is currently hosting another exhibition 'Company Paintings'.
The name is derived from the East India Company, whose officials commissioned Indian artists to represent all the facets of life in miniature forms that they encountered in the new colony. Thus was born a mixed style of Indian miniatures and European naturalism. Block 2, which is again an exhibition space, is currently gearing up for Anish Kapoor’s exhibition, which opens in the Capital Today. It is the single largest exhibition of the artist, ever organised outside the United Kingdom. Block 3 consists of an auditorium, preview theatre and conference room that caters to various talks, screenings and seminars taking place in NGMA.
The Art Shop
The first attraction as you walk into the new wing, is the Museum’s souvenir shop. Portfolios of Rabindranath Tagore, paper weights with Subodh Gupta’s paintings and greeting cards with Nicolas Roerich’s impressions are few things that will catch your eye as soon as you enter the shop. With an efficient team of in-house designers, the shop also believes in keeping items that go well with the time, hence, beautifully done up mugs and hair clips. The price of all the products here, ranges from Rs 15 to Rs1500.
With a collection of 24,000 books on art, art appreciation and art criticism, the library is under upgradation and is located at the Jaipur House. It subscribes to 18 art magazines like Art News, Art in America, Kala Deergha and many more. The library will be moved to the new wing very soon.
The newly done up café does not have much to offer. All you can expect is a hot cup of tea or coffee with a few munchies. But don’t be disappointed, the samosa stall just outside Gate no. 1 of the gallery, serves hot yummy samosas and delicious chaat, and is a favourite of the director of the gallery too. You can even plan a lunch at Pandara road, which is famous for its restaurants such as Gulati and Chicken Inn.
“Today, the gallery has six times more space in terms of facilities and infrastructure as compared to any other gallery in the world,” says Rajeev Lochan, who took over as the Director on March 23, 2001. Nine years, and he is still going steady. And when asked, what’s in the pipeline for the gallery, Lochan says, “Plans are endless but right now, we are realising one of our biggest dreams — Anish Kapoor’s first exhibition in India, which opens today.”
National Gallery of Modern Art is open from 10 am to 5 pm. It is closed on Sundays . On Thursdays, it is open till 8 pm. Entry ticket is for R10 for Indian citizens and R150 for foreigners. The nearest metro station is Central Secretariat