“CHANDIGARH IS like my child, and these precious and priceless possessions are my gift to the future generations. These lithographs and a print were gifted to me by Le Corbusier and his friend Heidi Weber, and who else could I give it to but the city I love and cherish.”
That was M N Sharma, the first Indian Chief Architect of Chandigarh, who spoke over the phone about the new section ‘MN Sharma Collection’, soon after its inauguration at the Government Museum and Art Gallery on Friday. The MN Sharma Architectural Society, Chandigarh, donated 10 artworks, five lithographs and one print by Corbusier and four models of sculptures of Sharma to the museum.
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Part of the Contemporary Art Section in the museum, this will be a permanent collection, and the artworks have a significant association with the history of the city and the museum Corbusier designed. Although Sharma, 92, could not be present on the special occasion because of ill health, a short movie about his contribution to Chandigarh was screened for guests and art lovers.
“We must contribute to the city’s infrastructure, and assure a heritage status for it. We have to join hands to make it grow,” said Sharma, who was first associated in 1950 with the team of Albert Mayer and Matthew Nowicky, who had drawn the first Master Plan and architectural concept of Chandigarh and later, with Corbusier, E Maxwell Fry, Pierre Jeanneret and Jane Drew. Apart from his architecture, Sharma is also known for his sculptures and more recently, a series of paintings, in which Chandigarh and Corbusier figure prominently, with Corbusier being the major inspiration for his work.
As part of the new collection, art lovers can view Corbusier’s lithographs which depict architectural elements, human figures, geometric shapes, the cityscape of Chandigarh, including the Open Hand, with colour adding new dimensions to the master architect’s vision and also Corbusier’s Handprint. The models of sculptures by Sharma include a circular sphere wooden sculpture, original fountain sculpture, in clay, installed in Sector 17, Neelam Piazza and wooden sculptures installed in front of Central State Library in Sector 17, and outside Chandigarh Tourist Complex, Sector 1, all inspired by the city’s architecture.
“For the last 48 years, the sculpture in terracotta was in his room, near his bed. It is very close to his heart, and also one that is fragile, and he is sure the museum will take great care of him,” said Yojna Rawat, who is an integral part of the M N Sharma Architectural Society. In fact, Rawat plans to fill the spaces in Sharma’s rooms with prints of the originals to create the same ambience and feel.
“These are my personal possessions, but I wanted the public to view, admire and cherish them. I don’t feel any sense of loss, for art of such value should not be limited to our homes, it’s for the coming generations and for posterity. I want my home, which is a special space, to be open to the public too,” said Sharma, who is now looking forward to the publication of his book Making of Chandigarh, Le Corbusier and After, Memoirs of MN Sharma.