Victoria Memorial Hall authorities have brought out two artworks by Salvador Dali, one of the most discussed painters of the 20th century, from their archives, adding a zing to the artscape of Kolkata that will be difficult for any other Indian city to match.
The two colour etchings of the 'Macbeth series' by the surrealist maestro have been put on display for public viewing for a month. The works have been in the VMH's collection for 24 years, but never publicly mentioned.
Surprisingly, the VMH authorities themselves were oblivious of the prized possession. And, they do not even feature in the VMH's list of its major collections.
Both the works are colour etchings on copper plates printed on Japanese rice paper with cotton threads. The works are signed in pencil but are undated. Dali's love for Shakespeare is well known and his works of the Macbeth series are widely discussed in global art circles. In 1946, the Spanish artist had illustrated an edition of Macbeth.
Dali (1904-1989) is one of the most controversial artists of the last century. One of the leading surrealist artists, the maverick painter is best known for his melting clocks works.
"We have displayed the two works at Durbar Hall as 'objects of the month'. We got these works from US-based painter Bimal Banerjee," Jayanta Sengupta, curator and secretary of VMH, told HT on Thursday.
"We have decided to put most of the important works in our collection on public display. This initiative is part of the same plan. We believe we are custodians of such works and it is our duty to display them for people from time to time," said Sengupta.
However, speaking from his New York home, painter Banerjee criticised VMH authorities for almost forgetting his gifts to the museum.
"I am anguished and disappointed with the Victoria Memorial Hall authorities. It is due to this suppression of these gifts that I have disconnected all my connections with Kolkata," he said.
Banerjee got these works from Dali himself in exchange of his own work.
The VMH authorities acquired the Dali etchings, along with 81 others works, from Banerjee on August 28, 1990. Banerjee had gifted these from his personal collection on the condition that they shall be put on a permanent gallery along with a plaque with his parents’ name.
"Exhibiting Dali's work in India is very uncommon," said Sonia Ballani of Vadehra Art Gallery in New Delhi that held an exhibition of Dali's etchings and lithographs in March this year.
It, however, had brought in those works from a gallery in London.
Ballani was unsure if anybody possessed a Dali in the country.
(R) The two colour etchings of the 'Macbeth series' on display at Durbar Hall at Victoria Memorial Hall.