'Unsafe' Venkatappa Art Gallery to be razed, rebuilt

'Unsafe' Venkatappa Art Gallery to be razed, rebuilt

Venkatappa Art Gallery. (DH File Photo)

It is not even 50 years since it was constructed by the state Public Works Department (PWD). But the state-run Venkatappa Art Gallery — located in the heart of the city inside Cubbon Park — is said to be in “danger” of caving in.

Worried about the health of the 43-year-old building, the state government has decided to demolish it and rebuild it.

Tourism Minister Sa Ra Mahesh, who inspected the building on Thursday, told DH that there was no other option but to raze the building, as its foundation had completely weakened resulting in huge cracks in the structure.

The minister said the idea was to give the gallery a complete makeover. “The building is slowly sinking as there is a moat around it. The water in the moat has weakened the foundation of the building. The structure has developed huge cracks. If we tend to the cracks, they cannot be fixed permanently. There is no option but to demolish it and rebuild it,” he added.

Mahesh said that the gallery would be remodelled on the lines of a heritage building. “The plan is to recreate a replica of the Government Museum, which is a grand old heritage building,” he said. The gallery is located right opposite the iconic Government Museum, which still stands strong even after nearly 140 years.

The minister has asked the technical wing of the Department of Heritage, Museums and Archaeology to conduct a thorough investigation of the building and submit a report.

The department is now in the process of writing to the PWD asking it to submit three to four plans and designs for the proposed new building, which will have pillars, cornices, and traditional designs and motifs just like the Government Museum building, said an official.

In 1966, the state government decided to set up the gallery in the name of K Venkatappa, an artist of international repute.

Former judge, M F Saldanha, who was instrumental in ensuring that the water bodies and ponds inside Cubbon Park were restored, recalled that the government wanted to build a multi-storeyed building next to the gallery. “They wanted to fill up the pond and build the new structure there. The government dropped the project after I intervened,” he added.

Saldanha also said that there was no need to demolish the gallery building. “If the water is damaging the building, all that the authorities need to do is to stop the water from entering the moat. Repair works are much cheaper as opposed to demolishing and rebuilding the gallery. Also, this shows the substandard work by the PWD,” he said.

The Siddaramaiah government had come under attack a couple of years ago, when it had proposed to privatise the gallery. The government had entered into an agreement with Tasveer Foundation to set up MAP — Museum of Art and Photography. The project was dropped after massive protests.

Who is Venkatappa?

K Venkatappa, a renowned artist, was born in 1886 in Mysuru. He studied fine arts in Chamarajendra Technical Institute, Mysuru from 1902 to 1908. He took up advanced studies in Fine Arts and Crafts in Kolkata under the guidance of Percy Brown and Abanindranath Tagore from 1909 to 1916. He was well versed in Plaster of Paris works. He was the court artist during the reign of the Mysore Maharajas. His depiction of Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar on ivory, decoration of the Amba Vilas Palace in Mysuru and his landscape paintings of Ooty and Kodaikanal are hailed as great classics. Venkatappa died in 1965.

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