MILESTONE For 25 years, the Kasthuri Sreenivasan Art Gallery And Textile Museum has been propagating the cause of fine arts in Coimbatore. Subha J Rao reports
At a time when not many in a business-driven city even knew what art and art appreciation meant, pioneering textile scientist and writer, Kasthuri Sreenivasan dreamt of an institution where the fine arts would be celebrated and textile traditions would be revered. It would be a place driven by talent, and where commerce would take a back seat.
So, he established the Kasthuri Sreenivasan Trust in 1981. In 1983, G.V. Doraiswamy Naidu gifted the Trust an acre of land, and this turned into the Kasthuri Sreenivasan Art Gallery and Textile Museum as we know it today. It was inaugurated 25 years ago on August 29, 1988 by President of India, R.Venkataraman.
Besides the art gallery and textile museum that hold a treasure trove of paintings and textile-related heirlooms, there is an exhibition space. It has hosted the works of many struggling/amateur artists long before the world realised their worth. The paintings of new and upcoming artists were introduced to the public in this gallery. Most importantly, artists could exhibit their works free of cost and the art was affordable.
“That’s something we’ve always believed in,” says D. Sarath Chandran, Managing Trustee, KST. He gave the vote of thanks on the inaugural day and has been actively involved in the Trust since then.
“The focus here has always been about art appreciation and not about art as investment. We continue to be a not-for-profit institution and just look at recovering our overheads. And yes, we encourage youngsters and works that are moderately priced,” he adds.
The manager, M. Kuppuraj, who has been with KST for many years now, has invited artists to showcase their works here and organised innumerable painting workshops, where artists teach students and the public art and art appreciation.
S. Murali, who owns a spinning mill, is a regular visitor to KST. “I buy a lot of works, primarily for gifting. I think art is more interesting as a gift than silver. I encourage local artists and have a preference for oils. I like the fact that the works are not atrociously priced. However, at times the works of the students are slightly overpriced,” he says.
Shankar Vanavarayar, correspondent, NIA Educational Institutions, buys a lot of works from KST too. “This institution has quenched my thirst for art. I especially love the works of students of fine art, some of whom continue to stay in touch and create artworks for me,” he says. His hope for the institution is that it should reinvent itself and become a hub of creativity, thought and innovation.
What about Sarath Chandran himself? What does art mean to him? “Anything that is visually appealing. I buy anything that piques my interest,” he says, sitting in a room where a huge painting of five horses looms large on one wall. “Ah that? I picked it up about 30 years ago in Bangalore. It’s a vital part of my office life now.”