On a regular day, the first-floor corridor of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), adjacent to the “Himalayan art section”, is busy with visitors passing through to the Premchand Roychand Gallery or taking a break next to the museum’s arching windows.
From this month, this space will no longer act as just a connecting corridor. It will be transformed into a permanent gallery space, dedicated to prints and drawings of India from between 17th to 20th centuries.
The 1,200-square-foot corridor is currently under renovation and is scheduled to be ready by December-end. It will open in January with an exhibition titled, “Bombay to Mumbai: Door of the East with its face to the West” curated by art historian Pheroza Godrej and writer Pauline Rohatgi. Its walls will display 47 prints of Bombay dating to the 17th and 18th centuries.
“For a while, we have been considering to open a gallery dedicated solely to prints and drawings. When Pheroza and Pauline came to us with 200-odd prints of early India from their personal collection, the idea finally took shape,” says Sabyasachi Mukherjee, director general of the museum.
The gallery, he says, will provide visitors a chance to learn about the art of printmaking – a technique that was used for documentation by artists before painting and photography became popular.
“The collection of prints we have is one of the largest in the country, second only to the prints displayed at Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial Hall,” says Godrej. The rich collection contains prints of colonial cities of Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and Madras. Rohatgi says, “The collection has prints that are 200 years old. They document early architecture, communities and history of the cities. All the works will be exhibited on rotation.”
Eventually, Mukherjee plans to open the space for other interesting prints and drawings collections. “The space is being created to get people to appreciate printmaking.”
The gallery, tentatively called “Prints and Drawings Gallery”, has been specially designed to blend in with the look and feel of the museum building, a 100-year-old Grade-I heritage structure. Challenges include prepping the utility space of the corridor to hold delicate prints that are two to three centuries old, says designer-architect Sourabh Sharma, who is heading the renovation work.
“For instance, the windows that were thrown open earlier to allow natural light to flow in had to be blocked partially to avoid damaging the works due to exposure to the sun,” he says.
Other challenges include ensuring good ventilation.