Sitting pretty in a corner of Palace Road, just a few minutes away from Vidhan Soudha, Cubbon Park, Golf Course Club and Chinnaswamy Stadium, is the National Gallery of Modern Art. Previously known as Manikyavelu Mansion, the heritage structure spans 3.5 acres and is surrounded by many old colonial bungalows, including Balabrooie Guest House. For the uninitiated, it could very well serve as the next serene afternoon getaway.
Surrounded by magnificent trees, a mirror pool flanks the neat little café adjacent to the main building. Sitting by the side of the pool is a pleasure in itself, but the real deal lies inside the building which is abound with art forms by colonial, Bengali and post-Independence artists, including the likes of Rabindranath Tagore.
The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Bengaluru, belonged to mining baron Raja Manickyavelu Mudaliar, who had purchased the property from the Wadiyars of Mysuru. Legend has it that Raja Manickyavelu came from a poor family, and made it big in the mining of manganese and chrome. However, due to financial issues, the mansion was acquired by the City Improvement Trust Board (now known as the Bengaluru Development Authority) and was then transferred to the Housing Board in the 1960s.
In 2000 the building was leased to the Ministry of Culture. The mansion was then chosen to become the southern headquarters of the NGMA. The gallery was finally opened to the public on 18 February, 2009, and boasts of a display space of 1551 sq meters. Additionally, a new gallery block with another 1260 square meters was added to incorporate bigger art shows. “The architecture of the new block was built in the same style as Manikyavelu Mansion. It also fulfils the requirements of a modern museum,” says Darshan Kumar, the Art Curator at NGMA.
The mansion is one of the three National Galleries of Modern Art – the other two being in Delhi and Mumbai. The collection at the building cuts across sculptures, paintings to photography that date back to the colonial era. Today, the gallery plays an important role in showcasing the cultural ethos of India and plays host to art from the 18th century to the present times.