A penny for your art
Myna Kakar was just a little girl when she discovered her love for art. Inspired by the art magazines that her father (a doctor) got from a pharmaceutical company, she practiced her drawing skills by replicating them.
Born and brought up in Amritsar (a city in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab) she found herself drawn to Calcutta’s art and culture. Being an art lover, she bought paintings from various artists around Kolkata and soon it turned her house into an art gallery. Verandah Art Gallery is situated in 10-A Lee road (north Kolkata) not too far from the famous Park Street. One cannot overlook the beautiful garden set by the verandah. I could sense the passion for art just as I entered the place. The verandah itself looked like it belonged to some painter. A beautiful bistro style patio placed right in the middle of the verandah and few paintings hung elegantly on either side of the wall and a lounging set placed at the far end of the room.
Looking at the paintings in the living room I asked her if any of the paintings in the room were hers, to which she humbly said ” I used to paint but I was not well trained. When I came to Kolkata I saw the talent of art and the level of work here. I started collecting them and that is how this gallery started.”
Drawn by Bengal’s rich culture and magnificent collection of art, she started this gallery almost 16 years ago. “I started collecting art of emerging artists and a lot of them have become well-known over the years.” Starting from the walls of the verandah, it slowly spread into the living room, dining hall and the passage in her home. “We decided
to spare the bedroom” she half-wittily said.
Displaying art at her home instead of a gallery proved to be beneficial for her as well as the client. Gallery space is usually sparse, which makes it difficult for a buyer to imagine what the product would look like at their house. Putting up all the paintings in her house gives her client a rough idea of what the art would look like in a home setting. “Half our job is to educate our buyers about art because some of our clients may not have any idea about art, so opening a gallery at home gives me a chance to personally attend them and educate them about art.”
While she attended a client’s call, I decided to take a look around the house. There were some unique pieces of artwork that caught my attention. With what appeared to be charcoal on a canvas was a drawing by Kanchanmala. She beautifully captured a 20-25 years old girl’s right face, with hair falling out from behind and a light in her eye gave the face a very natural look. Some of her artworks seem to have been inspired by Nandalal Bose (one of the pioneers of modern Indian art) and Abanindranath Tagore (the principal artist and creator of “Indian Society of Oriental Art”) giving each face a life and expression that is not clichéd. “Many of my clients think that they are sad faces but what they miss is that these are the most natural expressions that one comes across in their daily lives. You can’t always paint happy faces.”
We spent almost an hour going through each artwork that hung on her wall. Passionately describing each artwork and the artist’s story she pointed to a sculpture that hung above the entrance. Made out of railway sleepers, joined with panels and wood was a sculpture of “Angel and the mortal. At first glance, you can see an angel pop-out made of fiberglass, if looked carefully there appears to be a painting of a man behind the angel. “The man that you see behind is not painted on the wood but it is made of stencils and burned wood” she added. Sanatan Dinda, the creator of this magnificent piece of artwork is first Indian artist having a displayed portrait of Mother Teresa at the Buckingham Palace.
Myna Kakar graduated in art from Amritsar and then got a post graduate degree in graphic designing. She and her family have been living in Kolkata for more than 31 years.
Even though she keeps a low profile, she has done many exhibitions in Kolkata, Singapore, Dubai and other cities in India. “Kolkata is a hub for art and people have taken it for granted but when I take these artworks outside India, I feel I am educating many people from different cultures about Indian art.”
Calcutta or Kolkata has long been a breeding ground for political, intellectual and artistic movements and continues to develop as a centre of a unique and dynamic Indian culture. With many independent artists and art galleries emerging, this city has been successful in capturing and preserving the Indian culture in the form of paintings.