The delay in completion of the ongoing renovation works at the Sree Chithra Art Gallery in the city, which houses some of the original paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, has put the authorities in a tight spot.

A part of the gallery, inside the Napier Museum premises, was opened to public during the renovation works which was started four months ago. The work was expected to be completed in less than 90 days. But the delay and the lack of an alternate space to accommodate as many as 1,100 paintings have the authorities worrying about the risk of exposing some of the most priced paintings to dust and pollution.

“It was decided that only a part of the section would be closed down for renovation and the Ravi Varma paintings in that section was accommodated in this building, which is open to public. As this is the vacation time and many visitors specially come to the city to see these exquisite paintings, it was decided to carry out the renovation work part by part”, said K. Vijayakumari Amma, Superintendent of the gallery. This has caused a slight problem in the arrangement of the paintings. Six paintings are accommodated on a single wall, where previously three of them were spaciously arranged. But the larger problem is the protection of the paintings from pollution due to the construction works.

The gallery is also home to some selected works of Rabindranath Tagore , Russian artists Nichols Roerich and Svetoslav Roerich and contemporary painters such as K.C.S.Panicker. Mural and Tanjore paintings, art from Bali, Rajasthani and Mughal paintings and Tibetian Thanka are also part of the collection. Some of these were removed to accommodate the Ravi Varma paintings, which would mean carefully storing these paintings until the work is complete.

“Every Wednesday, the gallery is closed for cleaning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Special brushes are used to clean the paintings. During the construction work, the main door to this gallery is closed with curtains and plastic sheets”, Gallery Attendant G. Sivankutty said showing the Ravi Varma paintings , the restoration works of which were carried out by the Archaeological department in 2006.

The main works include renovation of the ceiling and windows, pest control and repainting of the two buildings. The officials have suggested constructing a single entrance and exit point for the museum and also constructing a closed pathway between the two buildings of the gallery.

“At present, there are separate entrance and exit doors for the museum. Since it was a residential building, there are a number of open pathways between the two buildings. It would be difficult to monitor the visitors if these pathways are not closed”, said the Superintendent.

According to Museum Director K. Udhayavarman, all arrangements are in place to give maximum protection for the paintings during the renovation work, which is expected to be completed by June.