After remaining closed for over a year for renovation, the K C S Paniker Art Gallery on the Museum premises reopened its doors to the public on Monday.
Sixty-five of the artist’s paintings, many of which have undergone restoration, now sit in new teakwood frames. Wooden floor panels and a railing now compel the visitor to keep their distance from the works. Air-conditioning, ultra-violet-free LED lights and hygro thermometers to measure temperature and humidity of the gallery are the among its new features.
Cushioned stools have also been placed where viewers may sit and ponder for hours over some of Paniker’s more haunting works like the 1973 oil-on-canvas ‘Dog’ or the ‘Words and Symbols’ series inspired from palm-leaf manuscripts done in the last years of his life.
West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan, who formally reopened the gallery, called it a “delight for the eye”.
“In many museums across India, art works are very poorly maintained,” said Narayanan, who is also chairman of Board of Trustees of the Indian Museum, Kolkata, which is India’s largest museum. “So, the initiative taken by the authorities here to preserve the art works of the legendary painter is extremely commendable.”
Sumithra Menon, daughter of K C S Paniker, expressed her gratitude for the “honour shown her father.” She said the museum was the realisation of a life-long dream of Paniker.
“He never cared much for money,” she said. “He only wanted to be known as an artist and for his works. He stopped selling his paintings about a decade before he died.”
Both Menon and her brother Nandagopal had been actively involved in the restoration of the gallery.
Many prominent artists, students of Paniker, such as K N Vasudevan Namboodiri, Kanayi Kunhiraman, Kattoor Narayana Pillai, Akitham Narayanan and Paris Viswanathan attended the event. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Minister P K Jayalakshmi and film-maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan were also present.
The reopening of the gallery also marked the end of the year-long birth centenary celebrations of the artist, who among his other achievements also founded the Cholamandal artist village in Chennai.
The K C S Paniker museum gallery was established in 1979. The paintings are displayed in chronological order and reflect Panikers journey as an artist and an individual. His works from the 1930s include impressionist water colours of landscapes, while those from the forties show his study of the human form done in pencil, pen and oil. By the fifties, Paniker had moved on from the individual form to rural folk - the fruit seller, fisherman, and so on.