Peeling paint, cracked walls and the musty smell of concrete is hardly what you expect when you enter an art gallery. That and a myriad mix of paintings hung by thread and framed by stained walls.
But this is how the State Gallery of Art, Chitramayee, chooses to greet you. Far from the ambitious project inaugurated in 2004, the gallery is now in a state of neglect.
The auditorium next door is marred by broken panes and disuse. The café, library and souvenir shop are yet to materialise. The artist-in-residence proposal has morphed into a private hotel.
Officials from the Department of Culture say the gallery has not had a curator for nearly seven months. Prior to that, the Department of Archaeology was overseeing it. Surprisingly, the post of curator has now been transformed into that of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and is still waiting to be filled.
This partly explains why the gallery is lacking a real permanent collection. “They need a curator with an art background. Only someone who knows art can put together a permanent collection of real standing,” says Chandana Khan, Commissioner of Inquiries, who was involved with the gallery when it first opened.
To make matters worse, the city’s leading artists say they have had no real interaction with the gallery. “We made a request in 2005 saying we wanted artists from the Hyderabad Art Society to be involved but it was rejected. Since then I have never received an invite or displayed my art there,” says Chippa Sudhakar, a renowned artist.
“Thota Vaikuntam, Laxma Goud, Surya Prakash, none of the senior artists have any correspondence with the gallery. The last time my work was there as part of a travelling exhibition by Lalit Kala Academy, they left my painting on the floor,” he says.
Srinivas Reddy, an established sculptor, says the design should have been entrusted to people who were familiar with art galleries or the Lalit Kala Academy. “It was made by a set designer and now it is rented out to film shootings. How can we take it seriously?”
He points out that the elevation makes it difficult to carry sculptures and other material while the glass interferes with proper display. “Artists know how to present art. They need a committee with photographers and painters. Officials cannot do the job,” he says.
What better proof than the gallery itself?