Modern Indian art is to get a new sarkari address — the new wing at the National Gallery of Modern Art. Bigger — at around 12,000 square metre, better — in its use of state-of-the-art lighting and security systems, the new wing will help the gallery display a larger selection from the around 17,000 works of art in its collection.
And not a day too soon. It was 23 years ago, in 1985, that a national competition was held to fix the design for the building. Construction started only in 2000, since the grounds had to be cleared of illegal occupants. On the positive side, the building cost far less than the Rs 75 crore that the government had set aside for it, according to Jawahar Sircar, secretary in the Ministry of Culture.
The centrepiece here will be a floor dedicated to Nandalal Bose, showing 85 works, including his Haripura posters as also some rare murals. “We are looking at this as a retrospective of a master who contributed to the making of modern Indian art,” Rajeev Lochan, director of the art gallery told the media at a preview.
Also in the works is a retrospective of Tyeb Mehta, a founder member of the Mumbai Progressives, whose ‘Mahishasura’ fetched a record $1.6 million at a Christie’s auction in 2006.
The gallery is bringing out more treasures. As part of the “…in the seeds of time” permanent exhibit, housed on the upper levels of two display blocks of the new wing, there’ll be works by 18th century European artists working in India, like Thomas Daneill and Tilly Kettle, as also the early Company School and forgotten early artists like Pestonji Bomanji and Manchershaw Pithawala. The Tagores — all three, Roerich, Sher Gil, Baij and Binod Behari come next, followed by the Progressives from Mumbai, the Delhi Shilpa Chakra and the Cholamandala school artists.
Outdoors, there’s space for a large public installation, and Lochan hints that an Indian artist may be commissioned for one.