The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Delhi, is 63 years old. To mark its 63rd foundation day, an exhibition, Itihas, showcased the works of some of the country’s master sculptors. What a treasure the gallery owns. On display were some of the finest works of Amarnath Sehgal, Ram Kinkar Baij, Sankho Choudhari, Prodosh Dasgupta, Shirin Jal Virjee, and more.
The in-house curated exhibition had some magnificent sculptures and a few paintings. But I wish the exhibition was better curated. Several of the works were placed on huge wooden crates used for shipping stuff. I am not sure if it was a good idea. The huge boxes with some scribblings here and there seemed to overpower the delicate and often exquisite pieces of art.
My eyes did not move for a long while from Prodosh Dasgupta’s terrifyingly broken man entitled In Bondage. The bronze is a masterpiece – the man appears crushed and humiliated by poverty. His hands are missing, or have they been broken? Or have they been consumed by long years of labour? He seems to be staring at you, almost asking, “Is that enough? Or would you take my legs?”
I almost missed the Egg Bride by this outstanding sculptor who was inspired by Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore.
The Egg Bride is another marvel that represents Dasgupta’s constant theme of evolution and genesis. The woman, shaped like an egg, is the beginning of creation. She is open and free, naked and full.
And then I saw him. From far, I knew it is Gurudev (Rabindranath Tagore). A closer look presented the extraordinary craft of Ram Kinkar Baij, Shanti Niketan’s famous modernist. Baij’s masterpiece captures an ageing thinker and poet, broken in parts but not shattered. Still capable of writing wonderful verse and hopeful of a new India.
Although there were several voluptous women on display, GC Butt’s work, Toilet, took my breath away. Created more than 60 years ago, Toilet is a peep into the personal space of a woman who has finished her bath and is now probably contemplating about the day that lies ahead. Besides the grace in form I wondered if the woman whoud have been any less arresting if she had not lifted her arm and placed it on her head.
NGMA could hire better curators and proofreaders in the future. The past needs to be retold correctly and creatively.