It’s hard to dissociate Kala Ghoda in south Mumbai from its cultural prominence. But what put it on the map was the iconic Jehangir Art Gallery, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this month. The 12-day celebrations were kicked off with the inauguration of the gallery’s renovated auditorium.
“The auditorium is pretty old and the biggest drawback was that there was no air-conditioner. And, during the peak summer months, it became difficult for the artist to sit in the auditorium for a long period of time. Hence, we decided to make it an air-conditioned hall, just like the exhibition hall. Besides, we decided to improve the lighting,” explains Adi Jehangir, chairman of the art gallery. He adds in the same breath that the character and the essence of the hall are still the same.
Jehangir argues that the revamp was prompted by an attempt to keep pace with the changing times. “Also, a lot of people said the quality of the gallery was on the decline. But, they don’t realise that it is a non-profit, public gallery. We don’t have the money to make it swanky like other galleries. We charge the artist only for rent, and, hence, give an opportunity to many a young artist. The best part is that we take art to the people.”
Karthiayni G Menon is all too familiar with the changing faces of the gallery. She started as a clerk in 1967 and is now the secretary of the gallery. “I’ve been with the gallery for 45 years and the purpose of the gallery remains the same, which is to provide an opportunity to young artists and a platform for famous ones to showcase their work. I was there when former prime minister Indira Gandhi had visited the gallery. I was the one who presented her with a bouquet of flowers,” she says with a hint of pride.
The gallery is so much in demand with artists — new and old — that it has been booked till the end of next year, says Menon. “We have also received applications till 2019.”
A number of events are lined up as part of the celebrations, including a fund-raising auction of 47 paintings of eminent artists such as Akbar Padamsee, Anjolie Ela Menon, KG Subramanyan, Krishen Khanna and Satish Gujral on Wednesday as well as a live concert by tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain at the National Centre for the Performing Arts on October 27.