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Turnaround hope for Academy

The Academy of Fine Arts may soon see a turnaround after being riven by internecine politics that has resulted in its museum, which houses 37 Tagore paintings among other art treasures, remaining closed for about five years.

A Rs 5-crore plan is being drawn up to upgrade the facilities in this institution, introduce climate control in the museum, and restore and conserve its collection of paintings and textiles.

The plan is being prepared by Development Consultant, whose chairperson Shanta Ghosh is a trustee of the Academy. The plan will take another three months to be completed and work is expected to begin from next year, said Ashok Mukherjee, the chairman of the Academy’s board of trustees.

Academy representatives have already had talks with Union culture secretary Jawhar Sircar, who has sought the proposal forthwith. After the 37 Tagore paintings are restored, they will be included in the five-volume Rabindra Chitrabali being published by Pratikshan.

Academy director Goutam Basu, however, alleged that the upgrade was being hampered by a breakaway group of employees, headed by a member of the executive committee.

The group allegedly continued its “destructive” activity despite the imposition of Section 144 on the premises. At the same time, the convenor of the “platform” was demanding at various fora that the museum be reopened, said sources.

The group had debarred Academy officials, trustees and executive committee members from entering the museum, where about 2,800 works collected by Lady Ranu Mookerjee, who had founded the institution at its present site in the 1950s, are kept in an appalling condition, said Asit Pal, the vice-president of the executive committee.

There is an urgent need to catalogue these, added Pal. The help of Indian Museum was sought for the purpose. Thanks to the obstruction, the Central grant was being withheld as the upgrade proposal is not yet ready.

For the time being, the authorities want to keep Rabindra gallery open for at least three to four days, including August 8, the day on which Tagore’s death anniversary falls this year. The gallery will be closed thereafter for stock-taking.

Visva-Bharati will soon send a team for the restoration and conservation of the Tagore paintings, said Uday Narayan Singh, the pro vice-chancellor of the university.

The Academy’s troubles stems from the fact that neither has any election to the executive committee been held for the past 12 years, nor have annual general meetings been organised over the same period, although these should have been held after every three years, said S.B. Ganguly, current trustee and former chairman of the Academy.

Ganguly said audits had not been held either for the past seven years.

Audits are likely to begin by the end of next month and an annual general meeting will be held by September.

For the past three years, the post of the Academy’s director was lying vacant. It was filled only recently.

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