Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated India’s first dedicated “cultural space” in Kolkata. Four iconic colonial buildings — the Currency Building, Metcalfe Hall, the Belvedere House and the Victoria Memorial Hall — have been refurbished to collectively emerge as a cultural hub. “The Ministry of Culture plans to develop cultural spaces around iconic buildings in metro cities. After Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Varanasi are being taken up for the project,” says Raghvendra Singh, CEO, Development of Museums and Cultural Spaces, Government of India. A sneak peak at what’s inside each of the four buildings:
Old Currency Building
The three-storeyed structure was built in 1833, designed in Italian style with Venetian windows, cast iron grates, portcullis and railings. But it had been lying derelict. In 2005, the building was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for restoration. Called “Ghare Baire – The Home, The World & Beyond”, the exhibition at the restored building showcases the diversity of Bengal’s art. Over 450 artwork are from the DAG collection while 20 are from the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi.
Located in Alipore, Belvedere House was the former palace for the Viceroy of India and later, the Governor of Bengal. Now, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts pays tribute to the Bengal renaissance and Rabindranath Tagore by showcasing the works of the Hungarian mother-daughter duo Elizabeth Sass Brunner and Elizabeth Brunner, who largely portray Santiniketan and Tagore.
The design of the 1844 building is taken from the portico of the Temple of Winds in Athens. A major conservation exercise was carried out by ASI in 2018-19. Now, the ground floor has an exhibition set up by the National Museum, Delhi, on “100 years of Bengali Cinema” in collaboration with the Film Heritage Foundation.
Victoria Memorial Hall
The 99-year-old building has undergone a upgradation of all its seven galleries. Three galleries on the ground floor display some iconic oil paintings, including the Jaipur Procession of 1876, the world’s second-largest oil painting, while four galleries on the first floor showcase an exhibition on loan from the National Museum, Delhi, comprising miniatures on various themes.
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