ArtsAcre at New Town with its 1,65,000 square feet campus is more than a museum. It seamlessly houses galleries, lobbies, studios, caféteria, guest houses, auditorium and enchanting corridors and foyers. A short ride from Tata Medical Centre, just ahead of the Eco Space in New Town, Action Area III, you see the spectacular golden dome of the museum in Hatishala, followed by a beautiful facade, welcoming you to this idyllic setting. Designed by visionary architect and urban designer Partha Ranjan Das, ArtsAcre is an urban “Shantiniketan” for art lovers.
The ArtsAcre Foundation was inaugurated on 6th March, 2014, by Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal. Sitar maestro, Pt. Ravi Shankar had laid the foundation stone of this dream called ‘ArtsAcre’ way back on 3rd March, 1984. Its modestly built original campus was inaugurated by Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass on 11th January, 1987.
ArtsAcre is a one-of-its-kind museum in India. It was conceived by luminaries such as Suvaprasanna, Arun Kumar Poddar, Harshavardhan Neotia, Karan Paul, Shipra Bhattacharya and Debashish Sen to nurture young artists in the field of visual arts and also to give them a platform to hone their skills and exhibit their creations while giving an opportunity to art lovers to experience a landscaped island of tranquility. It traces the evolution of Bengal Art from colonial times and includes all kinds of traditional art forms such as painting and sculpture to post-modern installations, showcasing works by pioneering stalwarts as well as budding talents.
The entire campus of ArtsAcre is divided into blocks A, B and C. The museum is located in block A. The building has three floors. The ground floor has a few galleries which are yet to be developed and a tastefully made Museum shop and washrooms.
Bengal Modern Art
Interestingly, our guide gave us a guided tour of the museum starting from the third floor. So we took the elevator to the third floor and entered the corridor from where we could see a huge gallery showcasing the Modern Art of Bengal. All the art forms are contributions of artists from the post-Independence period, referred to as Modern Bengal. We came across numerous paintings mounted gracefully on the walls that are constructed to give way to interesting angles and breaks. Along with the paintings, we can also see awe-inspiring sculptures and installations of contemporary artists from Bengal. Some of the painters like Paresh Maity, Shipra Bhattacharya and Samir Aich, and sculptors such as Bhabatosh Sutar, Tapas Sarkar and Pankaj Panwar could be mentioned here. Since new age installation art forms are taking the world by storm these days, installation artists namely Probir Gupta, Adip Dutta and Jayashree Chakravarty are prominently featured in the museum.
Early Bengal Art and Bengal Modern Art
After Independence, the art of Bengal continued to be enriched by contributions of a plethora of exceptionally talented artists who rose to prominence by creating individual languages transcending geographical and cultural boundaries. Subsequently, Bengal witnessed the emergence of newer generations of artists with a wide range of creative vision and diverse thematic concerns and styles, thus expanding the art scenario to a contemporary global dimension. The second floor houses galleries showcasing the work of artists prior to Independence, the most prominent painters being Ganesh Pyne, Ganesh Haloi, Sunil Das, Bikash Bhattacharya and my own grandaunt, Shanu Lahiri. The famous sculptors showcased include Meera Mukherjee, Somenath Hore, Madhav Bhattacharjee and contemporary artist Suvaprasanna, who has a dedicated gallery exclusively for his work.
Suvaprasanna’s work is beyond words. The most interesting of his paintings to me was “The Death-bed of the Former Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr. Jyoti Basu” in red with all the characters in white when his body was surrounded by the dignitaries of the state. Suvaprasanna’s works that we get to see in this museum, mainly his paintings and sculptures, are in perfect sync with the global artistic language. Going through this gallery is indeed an art-lovers’ paradise and a lifetime experience.
Indian Contemporary Art and Water Colour Gallery
The first thing that draws your attention in the Indian Contemporary Art Gallery is the installation work by a Kashmiri artist which was dedicated to the floods in Kashmir in the 1990s. The work is an upturned house that culminated as an aftermath of the floods, which compelled the artist not only to leave his parental home but also to carry all the dreadful memories along with him all through his life. There’s also a projector installed inside the upturned house, which shows a film in order to set the context for the entire installation. It is a touching and humbling experience.
Another intriguing sculpture is the umbilical cord between a man and his son, beautifully portrayed by the sculptor. There are many other neo-realism paintings and sculptures from all over the country that are exhibited in this gallery which are bound to leave you mesmerised by their concept and exuberance.
As we move on to the water colour gallery which is also located on the first floor, we come across some of the rare collections of paintings in water colours. This transports you to another world where you see a riot of colours along with beautiful paintings.
By the time we were through with all the galleries on all the floors, we were famished. Our guide read our mind and escorted us to the sprawling caféteria in the next block. We ordered some sandwiches, noodles and Coke. To our surprise the service was very swift and rates quite reasonable. After having a sumptuous portion and an overwhelming experience at the ArtsAcre Museum, we came back happy souls, planning our next visit to the Museum soon.
F30 Action Area III, Newtown, Kolkata 700135
Telephone: 65600207 / 29860069
Days open: Monday – Saturday
Timing: 11:00 am – 5:30 pm
Parking : For 30 cars
Tickets : Rs 20 per head
Photography: Not allowed inside the galleries