Renovated Jaipur House to reopen with 1,000 artworks' retrospective

BY SIDDHI JAIN   |  New Delhi


The magnificent Jaipur House, once the residence of Maharaja of Jaipur in Delhi and now the house of National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), has been restored to its former glory following year-long renovations. It could soon open to the public with a grand retrospective exhibition of Upendra Maharathi, a Buddhist and Gandhian artist.

Exhibiting close to 1,000 artworks spanning his entire lifetime, the yet-to-be-opened show is spread throughout the Jaipur House interiors and showcases the diverse art forms -- architecture, textile, painting, crafts, bamboo, sculpture, ceramics -- Maharathi (1908-1981) dabbled in.

Most of the works have been donated to NGMA by Maharathi's daughter Mahashweta. Other artworks came from Upendra Maharathi Shilp Anusandhan Sansthan, Patna Museum and the gallery's own reserve collections, NGMA Director-General and sculptor Adwaita Gadanayak told IANS here.

As one enters the freshly-restored corridors and halls of Jaipur House, the exhibition curated by Gadanayak and his team exposes a set of unique chairs that Maharathi designed for Buddhist monasteries.

The NGMA has also created a meditation room, owing to the regular meditating habit of the late artist, that plays soothing music and features recreated spiritual panels from the Nalanda railway station, designed by Maharathi.

Maharathi, a 1976 Padma Shri recipient, was trained in the 'Bengal School of Art' and did much of his practice in Bihar.

A visit also reveals a larger-than-life bamboo structure with the artist's diary pages featured on its glass panels. It covers an entire hall of the Jaipur House and is a testimony to the traditional crafts practised by him.

In another hall stands a hollow, braided wooden structure, assembled without hammer and nail. Inside, it pays tribute to Jagannath temple in Odisha -- Maharathi's birthplace. The exhibition, which takes at least an hour for a brief walkthrough, is a laborious curation of his sketches, bamboo, wood objects, paintings and other arts.

"We've also tried to reconstruct his studio, which shows his paintings of Gandhi in his signature style, his art tools, his personal belongings like clothes and eyeglasses, and his last unfinished canvas, on which we see just the first 2-3 layers of paint. Since he loved to paint in intricate layers, we can only assume that there could have been many more," the NGMA head said.

Along with Maharathi's exhibition, visitors will also get a glimpse of how the restored Jaipur House looks like. Apart from the facade, many aspects of interiors have been redone, including woodwork, ceilings, the dome and the flooring, that were 'clogged with the artificial partitions and closures'.

The Queen's Room with its ethereal appeal and curtains cast in plaster has been restored with utmost precision. The fireplaces that were once closed and sealed with wooden partitions have been given a breather in restoring the iconic palace," the NGMA said.

The national art gallery also called the restoration of the Jaipur house another iconic chapter in its history.

The exhibition now awaits inauguration and as per the NGMA, it could possibly be by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. IANS