Grant Period: Over one year
INTACH, Kolkata, set up a restoration facility a year ago, primarily to cater to the needs of individuals with family collections of visual artworks. Since the two art restoration facilities in the city, Victoria Memorial Museum and the Indian Museum were denied by their mandate to cater to individuals and offered services at prohibitive costs, INTACH’s key objective was to make restoration affordable for the individual collector. Once the facility was available, INTACH began to receive requests from institutions like the Calcutta Club to restore and manage their painting collection.
Other than collections in the possession of individuals and families, Kolkata has many institutions like the Academy of Fine Arts, The Asiatic Society, Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, Rajya Charukala Parishad and Rabindra Bharati University, which house rare and valuable artworks, particularly of the Bengal School. Most of these artworks are not properly documented or catalogued and not accessible to the public. Reports on the condition of the collections do not exist either. Therefore, our preliminary discussions with INTACH centred around the feasibility of making an intervention by documenting and making an inventory of institutional collections, restoring and conserving them and persuading the institutions to make their collections available in the public domain.
Following discussions with art historian Tapati Guha-Thakurta and IFA, INTACH decided to focus on modern Indian art from the late 18th to the late 20th century, covering oil paintings, watercolours, and all other graphic and mixed media. Of the several institutions that INTACH approached, Rajya Charukala Parishad displayed a keen interest in preparing an inventory of their collection. However, this collection remains undocumented and unavailable to the viewing public in the city.
In view of the needs and possibilities of the collection, a five-phase project plan was prepared. This grant supports the first two phases of the project––the preparation of a full inventory of all the paintings and prints with details of the artist, title, medium, size, date and other available information, and photographic documentation of each artwork. After the completion of the two phases, INTACH is expected to reapply for the following phases of the project comprising: (1) the preparation of a status report on each artwork with recommendations for cleaning, conservation and restoration; (2) the publication of a detailed catalogue; and (3) the conceptualisation of a permanent exhibition of a large selection of paintings from the collection. The project’s larger objective is to persuade the institution to put the artworks on public display in the gallery spaces that exist in the building.