About a hundred years ago, when Japan was one of the first Asian nations to make its presence felt on the international scene, India and Nippon developed close cultural links, thanks to the efforts of Rabindranath Tagore and the nationalist Count Okakura.
Now, for the first time in India, a foreign corporate giant, the multinational Mitsubishi, has come forward to fund an art gallery. The address: Thakurbari, on the Jorasanko campus of Rabindra Bharati University (RBU).
In 1985, a Ford Foundation-funded year-long poetry translation workshop at Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal caused a furore, with Marxists accusing the institution of selling itself to foreigners. Art critic Pranabranjan Roy stresses that when foreign funding is on offer, the institution concerned should ensure that there is no “hidden clause” that can obstruct its independent functioning. RBU vice-chancellor Bharati Mukherjee gave the assurance that the funds come without any strings attached.
Mitsubishi has offered Rs 17 lakh for the project, she said. A meeting was held recently with Mitsubishi to finalise the project. Work on the new gallery will begin from the middle of this month. Two companies will hold demonstrations this month. The gallery is expected to open for public viewing by March-end. To be named ‘Thakurbari and Japan,’ the gallery will showcase paintings by Rabindranath and Abanindranath. More than 100 paintings executed by the poet will be on display, the vice-chancellor said.
Tapas Ganguly, deputy general manager (finance) of Mitsubishi, said the multinational on its own had offered the funding to the university. “This is the completion of 50 years of Indo-Japanese diplomatic relations and we have dedicated the amount to mark the occasion,” Ganguly said.
“Rabindranath had visited Japan a number of times and his relations with Japan were excellent. Our company wants to strengthen Indo-Japanese relations and considers it appropriate to pay homage to the Nobel laureate. Setting up the gallery is our small attempt to help the university spread the message of Tagore,” Ganguly added.
The university will give Mitsubishi three large rooms on the first floor of Thakurbari to establish the new gallery. The university has set up a committee with Indrani Ghosh, curator of the museum, as convener to complete the project, university officers said. The university has been planning for the past few years to revive the moribund Bengal School of art. “This is one of the oldest painting schools in the state. It has produced painters like Abanindranath Tagore and we want to revive it. Mitsubishi has agreed to our proposal and we are planning to set up the new gallery on about 700 sq ft on the Jorasanko campus,” Bharati Mukherjee said.
More than 300 paintings of Tagore are gathering dust in the rooms of Thakurbari as there is no arrangement for their display at the museum on the Jorasanko campus. In the new gallery, Tagore’s paintings will be adequately lit.
University officers feel that the new gallery will attract art-lovers as the university possesses rare paintings of Tagore. “We can earn some revenue from the new gallery once we charge a small entry fee. We feel it will attract many distinguished visitors,” an officer of the university museum said.