With the State government clearing Rs. 11 crore for the restoration of the 104-year-old National Art Gallery (NAG) building on the campus of Government Museum, the focus has turned to early commencement of the work.
As the government has constituted a committee of experts as part of its approval process, it is expected the panel of experts will soon hold deliberations and prepare revised estimates.
The panel comprises K.T. Narasimhan, former superintending archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), R. Kannan, principal secretary of tourism, culture and Hindu religious and charitable endowments department (in his capacity as an expert), S. Vasanthi, officiating commissioner of the State department of Archaeology and K. Moortheswari, deputy superintending archaeologist of the ASI. It is expected to visit the building site soon and make a fresh examination of the structure.
A sub-committee has been formed that includes Dr .Vasanthi, Sreelatha Rao, assistant superintending archaeological chemist and Ashokdeen, chemist in the State department of archaeology. An expert, speaking on the condition of anonymity, has suggested a separate unit be formed to implement this project so that focussed attention can be paid.
As the work is highly specialised, it has to be executed carefully and this may take a few years.
As part of the work, the front portion of the building and flanking structures have to be completely dismantled and re-built. Trial trenches for studying the foundation will be formed.
Another expert said proper documentation of the structure has to be carried out before the authorities take up the work.
Reflecting the Indo-Saracenic architectural style, the heritage building, once a famous film-shooting spot, was built in 1909 and Sir Arthur Lawley, the then Governor of Madras, declared it open. As it had accommodated Victoria Technical Institute till Independence, the building was known as Victoria Memorial Hall. In 1951, it was converted into the National Art Gallery thrown open by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru during the centenary celebration of the Museum.
Over the years, it has displayed, among others, traditional paintings of the Tanjore, Rajput, Moghul, Kangra and Deccan schools. Modern paintings in oil and watercolour were also part of the collections. In 2002, the Public Works Department declared the building unsafe and the exhibits were shifted to another block.