Centre looks to overhaul museums, several renovated structures will be open to public
An exhibition celebrating 100 years of Santiniketan, a town about 212 kms north of Kolkata where Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore set up a university, will be held at Kolkata’s iconic Belvedere House when it reopens to the public after a year-long renovation next month, said culture ministry officials familiar with the matter.
The event is part of the ministry of culture’s plans to overhaul the museums, and several such renovated structures will be open to the public in the coming months.
The project also includes an installation of avant-garde art [experimental, non-traditional art]at Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata, renovations of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Delhi and its branches in Bengaluru and Mumbai.
One of the officials cited above said, “The prime minister has shown key interest in sending more people to our exhibition and museum spaces. A committee on monument conservation, under the PMO’s watch, is overlooking these plans.”
The Belvedere House at the National Library in Kolkata, which has been undergoing renovation for over a year, will host its first exhibition in October this year. The inaugural exhibition will celebrate 100 years of Kala Bhavana [Institute of Fine Arts], the fine arts faculty of Visva-Bharati University, in Santiniketan.
Of the 25 galleries at the Victoria Memorial House, three have been renovated, and exhibitions will start there from next month, said the ministry officials.
In one of these galleries, paintings and art on shakti [goddess of strength and power], created over 200 years, will be displayed. There will also be an exhibition of prized paintings, including the “The Jaipur Procession” by 19th century Russian artist Vasily Vereshchag. The 23-ft wide by 16.5-ft high masterpiece is believed to be one of the largest oil paintings in the world.
The third gallery will hold plays by a troupe of the National School of Drama (NSD) celebrating the life of Queen Victoria.
Two other structures in Kolkata — Old Currency House and Metcalfe House — which are also being revamped, will be open to the public by the year-end. An exhibition on Bengal art, spanning 250 years, will be displayed at the 185-year-old Currency House. Built in the 1840s, Metcalfe House would have an inaugural event on renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray.
As part of the plan, the Centre wants to set up 100 new museums across the country. Last month, the government appointed former culture secretary Raghvendra Singh as chief executive officer (CEO) of Development of Museums and Cultural Spaces. Apart from overseeing the ongoing projects, he will also be the incharge of the revamp work at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), and National Museum, reporting directly to the ministry.
Overhauling NGMA in Delhi and its branches in Bengaluru and Mumbai is a top priority for the ministry. Two renovated galleries of NGMA, located in Jaipur House, near India Gate in Delhi, will display artefacts and paintings once they are open to the public within a month or so.
A yearly calendar of art displays, a new cafeteria which will be open till late hours, projection mapping [video projection?] of the history of Indian art, and installations of works of foreign artists on the lawns are also in the pipeline at NGMA. The structure has a basement space, which will be utilised for workshops and incubations for young artists, officials said.
Adwaita Gadanayak, director general, NGMA, said that these new initiatives will draw more people to NGMA in Delhi and its branches in other cities. “Most office-goers miss out [the exhibitions] as timings end by the time they are done. India Gate is nearby in Delhi, and the NGMA Mumbai is in art district, Kala Ghoda, while Bengaluru is in the heart of town, too. We’ve been holding initiatives like ‘Night at the Museum’, and held shows for schoolchildren to initiate more people into art,” said Gadanayak