THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Who would have thought that the best competition to Sree Chitra Art Gallery is its own stockroom? That’s where more than a thousand works, including Ravi Varma originals, have been lying, locked away from the world, for want of space.
Six months ago, the Kerala Public Expenditure Review Committee had recommended that the museum find space for its reserve collection and generate revenue. And even before that, the museum authorities have been planning to construct a new building for its reserve collection. However, the plans are yet to take shape.
According to Department of Museums and Zoos Director B Joseph, “We have prepared several proposals for the new building. This year, we have prepared a new proposal. It is estimated that the project will cost around Rs 18 crore.”
Kerala Museum of Heritage and History is the nodal agency entrusted with the construction of the new building.
A senior official in the museum said that a new building was necessary for the paintings, as Sree Chitra Art Gallery building is not apt to be a painting gallery. The present building is not humidity-controlled, which is crucial for paintings. Moreover, it does not have sufficient space to provide aesthetic pleasure to the viewers, according to the official.
Among the reserve collection are sketches which Raja Ravi Varma made before they were turned into some well-known paintings.
The Ravi Varma works in the stockroom include 11 paintings, 22 framed sketches and 12 sketches in book form. There are also originals by Rama Varma, Ravi Varma’s son, and by Mangala Bhai Thampuratti, known for reproducing Ravi Varma originals.
Museum officials assure that there is no fear of the works getting deteriorated, as the museum takes the help of National Research Lab for Conservation of Cultural Property to conserve its paintings. Still, works that make the museum a repository of heritage should get their rightful pride of place.