Kolkata is a city of magical realism. It is more than just another metropolis. It is the city where a man can still have a sumptuous meal for twenty rupees. It is the city of tea in earthen cups and yellow taxis. It is the city of ethereal ideas, the nucleus of Bengali culture, and a harmonious amalgamation of religious diversity. It is a sentient being that lives and breathes art and culture.
Kolkata has birthed art, craft, and political fervor since time immemorial. Art can never be caged or done justice only through art galleries or exhibits. In Kolkata, art is to be found everywhere in its heritage buildings, and colonial architecture. It is found in the paintings of Indian gods and goddesses that can be seen behind rickshaws and buses. It is seen in street posters of some up-and-coming theatre production or films. There is creativity to be found in the designs of antique shops and logos of roadside food stalls. There is expressiveness in the walls of North Kolkata, Golf Green, and Park Street where several walls are adorned with graffiti, slogans, and revolutionary street art. The whole city is an exhibit of various skilled craftsmen and women.
There are local artists everywhere — the bookbinders, wood block makers, stamp makers, the workers at letterpress printers, the sandesh makers, and the jewelry makers. As you walk through the streets of Kolkata, you will find Bengal crafts of dhokra, shola, pottery, terracotta, jute, textiles and so much more. The streets of the city are also a photographer’s haven. Eminent photographer Raghu Rai has composed many of his photographs in the heart of Kolkata. You will notice British influence on paintings if you visit the various art colleges such as Government Art College and Rabindra Bharati. Pop in the annual exhibition of the Government College of Art & Craft at Dharmatala and you will be enchanted by the works of immensely talented artists from the city.
This one’s for all the art lovers out there. Let us go on to explore some of the finest art galleries and museums in the city.
Ghare Baire is a museum exhibition, which is curated by Delhi Art Gallery (DAG) at the old Currency Building in Kolkata. It explores the art and artists of Bengal. The exhibition is inside this stately building that was once the British Imperial government’s Currency Department office in 1868.
II. The Kolkata Museum of Modern Art
It has been designed by distinguished Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. The Museum has artist studios, an outdoor performance theatre, an exclusive gallery, along with art restoration facilities. The space combines the modern and contemporary and provides support to performing arts, fine art, literature music, cinema, photography, and sculpture.
This museum exhibits a personal collection of artworks curated by SD Ahuja. They have a collection of 2000 artworks by over 250 artists from all across the globe but mostly from India.
This gallery is a must-visit for everyone, who is interested in Bengali art. They host a variety of exhibitions and the auditorium regularly hosts dance, theatres, and drama. Their textile and carpet museum also has a rather rich collection.
This gallery has established in 1967 to exhibit Indian contemporary art and attract an international audience. It showcases a range of historical and contemporary art objects and hosts various art workshops, educational programs, film screenings, lectures, and seminars.
VI. Akar Prakar
This gallery showcases and promotes reputed Indian artists while often collaborating with public organizations that promote Indian art globally.
VII. Kolkata Centre for Creativity (KCC)
KCC is a multi-disciplinary interactive art and creativity centre. It showcases artwork capturing the cultural landscape of India and promotes an academic discourse around art. It also hosts dance, theatre, and performance art productions.
It is a highly reputed art facility that provides space to artists, who want to hone their skills. This is a foundation devoted to Bengali and contemporary Indian art.
The Goethe Institute is an institution that promotes cultural exchange between India and Germany. German language courses and workshops are conducted here. Throughout the year, it also showcases installation art, audio-visual performances, and paintings of several contemporary Indian artists.
This gallery is located inside a restored 1930s two-story building, typical of 20th-century Bengal architecture. The space promotes artists currently pursuing ambitious and challenging contemporary practices. It showcases both solo and group shows from international and local artists, working with performances, photography, music lectures, and films. They also conducts salon-style workshops and discussions.
Art is a perfect blend of both the heart and the mind and Kolkata, the city I am proud to call home, is one of its grandest cauldrons. To put it in the words of Olivier Holmes Sr., “Whatever comes from the brain carries the hue of the place it came from, and whatever comes from the heart carries the heat and colour of its birthplace.”
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