BANGALORE: The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Bangalore is the city’s first museum dedicated to modern art. Built on the lines of the gallery with the same name in the country’s capital Delhi, NGMA is Bangalore’s pride and joy. It is symbolic of the very vibrant art culture that thrives in Bangalore alongside the Chitrakala Parsihat, another art lover’s paradise.
If you are an art aficionado, a painter, dreamer and all things ‘artsy’, there is a chance one will find you hanging out at this spot quite often. All roads lead to NGMA when there is an exhibition of a famous artist’s works. NGMA also has an auditorium where documentaries are screened, usually for free. All things ‘Artsy’ are associated with the Gallery that breathes life into the city’s art.
Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore, Amrita Sher-Gil, Raja Ravi Varma and other artists adorn the walls of NGMA.
This Gallery not only serves as a museum to showcase works of artists but also acts as a school where students spend time learning the strokes from long-gone masters who have left their teachings in the form of paintings. Sofas have been put up where students can sit and observe the paintings on the walls or re-produce them on their books.
Apart from the iconic status of NGMA in the city, another crowd pleaser is the very building that houses it. The Manikyavelu Mansion which houses the NGMA is an old mansion that adds to the beauty and elegance that represents NGMA, a fitting place for the Gallery. The pristine white walls of the mansion, the trees as tall as the building and the serene surroundings with tastefully done interiors compliment the gallery so much so that one wonders if it was built just for this purpose.
But, it is not. The building that is over 90 years old was once the property of the royal Mysore family. The mansion later came to be owned by a mine owner Raja Manikayavalu Mudaliar. It was taken over by the state government in the late sixties and offered to the Ministry of Culture in 1989 to set up a modern art museum at Bangalore by NGMA.
Spread over 3.5 acres, the historic heritage mansion was transformed from a residency into a museum gallery, with a display space of 1551 sq m by architect Naresh Narasimhan of Venkataramana Associates. The heritage building has been supplemented by a new Gallery Block, the architecture of which ‘coexists in harmony with the style and ambience of the traditional mansion.
Equipped with a refurbished auditorium, an open air theatre, a reference library, offices and art storage, a cafeteria, and a museum shop-cum-facilitations block, the NGMA is a hub of art activities and a major cultural centre in Bangalore.
However, the first NGMA was built in New Delhi in 1954. The idea of having a national art gallery was nurtured by then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and Maulana Azad, with bureaucrats like Humayun Kabir and an active art community. The Gallery is a premier institution of its kind in India. It is run and administered as a subordinate office to the Department of Culture, Government of India. The NGMA has a branch in Bombay also.
The gallery is a repository of the cultural ethos of the country and showcases the changing art forms through the passage of the last 150 years starting from about 1857 in the field of Visual and Plastic arts. Notwithstanding some gaps and some trivia, the NGMA collection today is undeniably the most significant collection of modern and contemporary art in the country today,’ says their website.