Preserving charm of the bygone era
While taking a drive around the C hexagon in India Gate, one cannot ignore the monumental dome of the Jaipur House which emerges amidst the rich vegetation of the Lutyen's Delhi. It is what everyone lovingly recognises as the National Gallery of Modern Art.
The resurrection of Delhi as the capital of newly Independent India, demanded creation of several cultural identities such as a National Museum, National Art Gallery and a Theatre House. This idea led to the formation of the National Gallery of Modern Art in the Jaipur House in 1954.
The museum was inaugurated by Dr S Radhakrishanan, the then Vice – President on March 29, 1954. All the prominent sculptors of the time like Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, Ramkinkar Baij, Sarbari Roy Chowdhury and other eminent artists had participated in the inauguration of the building and showcased an exhibition of contemporary Indian sculpture. The first prize entry in the exhibition, the iconic sculpture, 'Triumph of Labour' by Devi Prasad Roy Choudhury, adorns the front garden of the National Gallery of Modern Art, showing four men trying to lift a huge boulder in the heat of the afternoon sun.
The show spoke of the painstaking preparations made by NGMA's first curator Herman Goetz. A noted German art historian, Goetz had earlier been responsible for setting up the Baroda Museum. Since Goetz's tenure, NGMA has had a string of distinguished Directors.
In December 2016, the NGMA welcomed its first Director- General, Adwaita Charan Garanayak, an eminent sculptor and celebrated the foundation day of museum with art lovers of the city amid the historic exhibition titled 'Itihaas'.
Serving as an opulent stage to display masterpieces of art for several years, the last few months the Jaipur House was shut down to the public for much needed restoration. In conversation with the current Director General, Adwaita Garanayak, he says with great enthusiasm, "We are attempting and leaving no stone unturned to restore the building to its former glory and simultaneously the team from NGMA is preparing an exhibition befitting the space on its inaugural day to the public."
Efforts have been made to maintain the royalty of the house wherein it is intended that the building is embraced by nature in its surroundings. The openness of the Jaipur house in its original has been kept alive where the viewer will be able to savor the charm of the bygone era. The beauty of the woodwork speaks volumes about the fine craftsmanship of the era which has also been maintained during the restoration. From the ceilings to the dome till the flooring, each aspect of the iconic building has been restored with utmost finesse and craftsmanship which were once clogged with the artificial partitions and closures. The efforts to enliven the beauty and charm of the old era, the restoration of the Jaipur house mark another iconic chapter in its history.
The inaugural exhibition will showcase the works of Upendra Maharathi, a Buddhist and Gandhian artist. This exhibition is on the multilayered artistic pursuit of this Gandhian artist, who was a rank freedom fighter and later a recipient of the Padma Shri award in the year 1969. The spirituality and the dedication to raise oneself to an ultimate elevated world depicted in the works of Maharathi, was decided to be a befitting theme to this celebration of the new lease of life of the Jaipur House.
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