On the palace road in Bangalore lies a quaint old property with a nice old fashioned bungalow and two other modern structures amidst lush greenery and two fountains. Words like picturesque, beautiful, charming and attractive naturally spring to mind when one thinks of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru.
The property is a vast space of 3.5 acres with greenery everywhere and four buildings in the premises – two modern art galleries with the cafeteria and administration in one of them, an auditorium and the Manikyavelu heritage mansion. The Manikyavelu mansion has more than what meets the eye, and a rich history, including once being owned by the Yuvaraja of the state of Mysore which goes to show that it is not just the paintings in the building which have a high cultural value, but even the building itself is very important to the heritage of the city.
The Manikyavelu mansion is neighbored by a few other century old bungalows and mansions including the well known ‘Balabrooie Guest House’ and it is safe to assume that even this was built around that time since there is no such document in existence which can give us the exact year in which it was constructed. Records say that Vilum Manickavelu Mudaliar, the former owner of the mansion and his family lived in the mansion for some years before the house was put under auction because of defaulting of payments and was later acquired by the City Improvement trust board (Now called BDA) and then transferred to the housing board, back in the 1960s. The Ministry of culture has now sub-leased it from the Ministry of Kannada and culture who had leased it from the Housing board. The Mansion became the chosen location for the National Gallery of Modern art’s southern centre.
Just one look at the mansion and anybody would know that, this is a piece of history, such is the radiance of the Manikyavelu Mansion. The Architecture of the building is clearly influenced by Colonial British building styles but this one has a few Indian elements to it as well. The mansion has a royal driveway in front of its main door and contrary to its past, the main door now has a Security Metal scanner in front of it. It is very clear that the building at first had stone flooring all over with just some sections of wood, but the stone floor has now been tiled after its renovation. Upon Entering the Mansion, we find a corridor with a high ceiling and two balconies looking over the corridor, exactly like one would find in many old palaces. The First Floor of the building had wooden flooring all over and the Wooden Beams everywhere are easily noticed from the ground floor.
The Old Manikyavelu Mansion was renovated before being used as the National Gallery of Modern art and the architects and engineers have done an excellent job with the renovation. The New Indian Express has quoted Architect Naresh Narasimhan of Venkatramanan Associates, who was involved with the restoration of the building and design of the new wings as saying, “The mansion had a kitchen in the back and it was in ruins, so we took it out and built the new galleries there.” Narasimhan further went on to say, “When restoration and construction work began in 2003, Water used to seep into the Mansion and the entire building was built with brick and mud plastering.”
The Renovation work has been done very neatly indeed, with Air Conditioning vents very intricately being installed in such an old building. The renovation also made way for the installation of adequate security measures like, CCTV Cameras at every few feet and also Motion Sensing alarm triggers on every window.
The heritage building is like a diamond in the centre of the property, with the new additions – two galleries a museum shop and the cafeteria built around it. The two new gallery blocks are designed in modern European architectural styles. The 1, 260 sq metre gallery block, where exhibitions are organised, was built right next to the 1,551 sq metre heritage building. Even though it was built maybe a century after the mansion was built, the new wing with modern architecture has been very neatly integrated into the whole picture and it is quite literally seamless. On the walls this modern building, hang works of many artists, new and old, alongside greats like Raja Ravi Varma.
The property at #49, Palace Road, Bengaluru, also is home to a few trees which are nearly a Century old. A Banyan Tree, A Rubber Tree and A Raintree are the most prominent ones and might also be the biggest examples in Bangalore.
‘The gallery organizes and hosts talks on art and culture by eminent speakers, seminars, film screenings as well as workshops and guided walks throughout the year. Auditorium events organized by NGMA Bengaluru and the Art Reference Library facility is free of charge.’
The entire experience of visiting the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore was like finding a little 3.5-acre piece of heaven amidst the chaos and traffic in the city of Bangalore.