The South Palace at Shangumugham, till recently, had resembled a sad wreck ruminating on the white expanse of the beach. The City Corporation had given deliverance to the building some time ago and the Onam season saw the royal vestige receive a grand facelift. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Corporation and the Society for Protection of Cultural Heritage (SPCH), the art exhibition hosted at the palace had received a huge response from the public.
In view of the new-found stature of the palace, the proposal submitted by SPCH to convert the palace into an art museum is also awaiting ratification by the Corporation, says Shangrila Sasikumar, artist and gallerist who heads the society. “The palace can act as a catalyst between art and the common man in its role as a museum. The palace, set on the seashore, is in itself a tourist attraction. If a museum and resource centre are housed in it, the venue can soon put the city on the map of the country’s art destinations.” He adds that Mayor K Chandrika’s decision to allow the exhibition to be conducted at the palace exposed the potential of the building to act as a heritage site.
Paintings of around 51 artists were on display at the palace as part of the exhibition which concluded on September 7. The works included those by noted names from the domestic art scene like, Sunil Das, Krishna Murari, C L Porinjukutty, R Rajendran, Radhika Menon and others.
Apart from the exhibition, SPCH had also conducted a ‘Weekend Art Mart’ on the palace premises through the Onam season. The concept was inspired by the practice of street art common in the West, says Sasikumar. “We hope to continue this in the coming days. The idea is to demystify the practice of art and bring it closer to the common man. Art is made right in front of people’s eyes and they can interact with the artists. It is also a place where people can buy works of art directly from the artists, without involving middlemen.”
The proposal submitted by SPCH to the Corporation envisages a heritage museum and resource centre on Kerala’s traditional and folk arts on the top floor of the palace. An art gallery displaying the works of noted Indian artists will be set up on the ground floor. The palace, built as a guest house of the royal family, was renovated in 2010. While there are moves to utilise the building for several government-sponsored projects, the aesthetic and cultural value of the building will be best protected in its makeover as a museum, says Sasikumar.