Kolkata sets the stage for Asia’s largest museum of modern art, puts a 2015 deadline.
In the late 1990s, when a Picasso exhibition travelled to India and toured cities like Delhi and Mumbai, it skipped Kolkata. The city, which was once called ‘Paris of the East’ for its intellectual and aesthetic pursuits, had lost out. It was felt that Kolkata did not have a venue fit enough to exhibit the masterpieces. The indignation of the art fraternity has now translated into something positive. By 2015, Kolkata intends to be ready with Asia’s largest museum of modern art.
Kolkata Museum of Modern Art (KMOMA), a Rs 410-crore project, will come up at Rajarhat across 10 acres and will be designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. “Herzog & de Meuron has created some architectural wonders like Beijing National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest stadium, where the 2008 Olympics were held,” says Rakhi Sarkar, KMOMA’s managing trustee and owner of Centre of International Modern Art. “KMOMA will be the second project of this scale in India by world-class architectures. It will be the grandest project in almost five decades since the construction of the city of Chandigarh in 1950s by French architect Le Corbusier,” Sarkar adds.
The museum, a nine-storey building, will have 44 galleries, an auditorium for performing arts, talks and seminars, and the largest amphitheatre in the country with a capacity of 1,500. It will also have a library for documentation and restoration of art works. The museum complex will include studio-cum-residences for visiting artists and a research department with forensic laboratories for authentication and restoration of art work. An academic wing will also be built to facilitate research. A 25,000 sq ft stretch adjacent to the art centre has been earmarked for commercial and dining purposes and will have retail outlets, restaurants, a flea market and more.
The project was conceived in 2003 and flagged off by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on July 15. The museum will be built in public-private partnership. While the West Bengal government has sanctioned Rs 137 crore, the Central government is expected to give Rs 150 crore. “This is a major project and has been recommended by the Planning Commission,” says Jawhar Sircar, secretary, Ministry of Culture. “But it needs the support and attention of all the citizens of Kolkata,” adds Sarkar. Industrialists from Bengal have already started contributing towards the museum. Harsh Neotia and Sanjeev Goenka are among those who have contributed Rs 1 crore each.
“Kolkata has a pool of talent that waits to be nurtured,” says Banerjee. “KMOMA will generate employment through art and the city will once again emerge as an unparalleled leader in the field of art and aesthetics,” she adds.