This tiny shop in Kolkata has iconic paintings rest casually along its walls

Arnab Chakraverty, with a Souza and a Roerich each

Arnab Chakraverty, with a Souza and a Roerich each   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Up close and personal with legendary artists at this frame shop in the Salt Lake City branch of Chemould

How often do you get to look at — even touch and feel — a Jamini Roy or a Nandalal Bose or an S.H. Raza, as if you were browsing in a supermarket?

At the Salt Lake City branch of Chemould, the famed framemakers in Kolkata, you can. Works of several legends rest casually on the walls of this tiny shop, as if they're recently-framed pictures waiting to be collected by customers. You realise their value only when you ask for the price and subsequently look at the signature.

“It is no fun admiring creations of great artists from a distance. You should be able to get intimate with them. Only then you can appreciate art,” says Arnab Chakraverty, 42, whose family is in the business of importing frames. They bought over Chemould — started in Park Street in 1941 by celebrated art patron Keku Gandhi — in 2008.

In 2011 they revived the art gallery that Chemould had once been known for, and on Valentine’s Day in 2014 Chakraverty opened a branch in FE Block of Salt Lake City. “My wife Deblina is an artist herself; she had won the President’s Medal when she was barely 13. After I got married I began to appreciate art. Today I have works of almost all the big artists you can think of: M.F. Husain, Jamini Roy, Nandalal Bose, Bikash Bhattacharya, F.N. Souza (in picture in his left hand), Ganesh Pyne, V.S. Gaitonde, Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Gopal Ghose and many more,” says Chakraverty.

Works of Husain, which command the highest price, about ₹40 lakhs each, are not displayed in the shop, but those of most others are, including one by Nicholas Roerich (in picture in his right hand). Chakraverty’s collection includes mica paintings (the oldest dates back to 1830), and also Kalighat and Dutch Bengal art.

“Earlier I hardly had people coming into the shop, but now there is some awareness. I am even getting a few customers,” says Chakraverty. Each work of art comes with the certificate of provenance and authenticity, which specifies where it was sourced from. “No one would spend ₹30 or 40 lakh — that’s the cost of a small apartment — on a painting whose authenticity they are not sure of,” he says.

He recalls an incident from 2018, when he sold two works of artist Ram Kumar to a customer from Jamshedpur. “Someone later told the customer that the paintings may not be genuine. I told him that he was free to return them, but he liked them so much that he didn’t want to part with them and took them to Ram Kumar himself, who was 94 at the time, for verification. Ram Kumar had told him the works were indeed his. Then, exactly three days later, the artist died.”

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 4:00:38 PM |

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