Unlikely Spaces to Discover Art in Kolkata

8th Oct 2011
Photo of Unlikely Spaces to Discover Art in Kolkata 1/5 by Kishnaa Samana
Photo of Unlikely Spaces to Discover Art in Kolkata 2/5 by Kishnaa Samana
Poush Mela
Photo of Unlikely Spaces to Discover Art in Kolkata 3/5 by Kishnaa Samana
Marble Palace
Photo of Unlikely Spaces to Discover Art in Kolkata 4/5 by Kishnaa Samana
St. John's Church
Photo of Unlikely Spaces to Discover Art in Kolkata 5/5 by Kishnaa Samana
Durga Puja pandal

Kolkata, “the city of joy” can as well be re-christened as le Paris de l’Inde.  Kolkata, one of the oldest centres of trade, education and culture in India, has for eternity housed a rich and diverse populace. A powerhouse of talent and craftsmanship this city has always nurtured conventional, avant garde, folk art as well as kitsch with equal vigour and love. The rich and the affluent people of Bengal are known to be the greatest connoisseurs’ of art, craft and culture whereas the poor and not so privileged sections of society of this region have tactfully managed to keep the local forms of art (like Kalighat Paintings and Baul music) alive, in spite of many changes and renovations in the past two centuries.

Before one lands in the cultural capital of India one has to understand that Bengali’s are loquacious people who love good food and are always eager to exhibit their rich cultural heritage. This city is perhaps one of the few cities in the world that boasts of an art gallery, museum or a place with some historical interest or cultural connection in its every nook and corner. One would be astonished to discover items of art and craftsmanship in the most unusual spaces in Kolkata. If St. John’s Church located in 2/1, Council House Street BBD Bag Kolkata displays an Indianised and contextualised version of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper by Johann Zoffany then Chandernagore, located at a distance of around 30kms north of Kolkata, a town established by the French in 1600’s still mages to give us glimpses of the much touted French architecture of that era.

Personally I would always recommend anyone and everyone to the visit Kolkata in the winters, particularly from October to January. The grandeur and opulence of Durga Puja (the festival celebrating the power and benevolence of Mother Goddess/Shakti) that is often celebrated in the month of October is a must see for everyone who plans to visit this city. There is an abundance of street food, local art, music and of course people on the roads. During these seven days of Puja festivities the city doesn’t sleep and one can always avail any mode of transport at any point of time from almost all parts of Kolkata.  Moreover, the Kolkata Film Festival (KFF), the Kolkata Book Fair, Handloom Fair, the Bidhan Nogor Mela, Lexpo (a fair particularly organized for leather items) and of course the Poush Mela of Shantiniketan are all held in between November to January. 

Nandan is a government sponsored centre in the heart of Kolkata that was inaugurated by the state to cultivate film awareness. It has multiple screens for showcasing movies and it shares its boundaries with the Rabindra Sadan and Academy of Fine Arts. Rabindra Sadan is a cultural centre where one can always walk in by paying a minimal fee to watch a play. Nandan complex is the best place to spot the city’s intelligentsia, tollywood stars and the college crowd. Around the Nandan comlex one can also buy prints of paintings by famous Bengali Painters and terracotta items. To get an idea of the art scene in Kolkata one can simply walk and explore the area between Rabindra Sadan and Park Street area. I can assure you that one can easily spot around at least seven art galleries in this stretch.
Photo of Nandan, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kishnaa Samana
Photo of Nandan, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kishnaa Samana
Photo of Nandan, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kishnaa Samana
The Marble Palace located at 46, Muktaram Babu Street, Kolkata-700007 built in the 19th century neoclassical style has priceless paintings by Indian and European artists, western sculpture and fine variety of Victorian furniture, chandeliers, clocks, mirrors etc preserved in very good condition. The Marble Palace is reputed in the world of art for housing two paintings by Rubens and two paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Marriage of St. Catherine, The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, The Infant Hercules Strangling the Serpent and Venus and Cupid respectively. Gurusday Museum on the Diamond Harbour Road has the best collection of folk arts from Bengal and is the best place to get an essence of the local culture that this city has managed to conserve.
Photo of Marble Palace, Machuabazar, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kishnaa Samana
One of the most chaotic and oldest markets in Kolkata, New Market also known as Hobbs Market and Gariahat offers a microscopic view of the wonderful treasures that this city has to offer in terms of artistic variety and craftsmanship. Silver Jewellery with strong influences of Tibetan art and Indian artistry, stones of myriad colours and hues, saris (silk and Bengal cotton), clothes and bed sheets with patch work, embroidery, leather goods, cane furniture, terracotta items (ranging from ear-rings and bangles to toys and decorative objects) jute work and a variety of items from different parts of the country can be bought from these parts of Kolkata.
Photo of New Market Kolkata by Kishnaa Samana
Digha beach, located at a distance of 135 kms from Kolkata has an amazing display of mirrors, bed-side lamps, wall hangings etc made from sea-shells and toys made of jute/ wood. Kalighat paintings also known as pattachitra can be bought from artists in the Kalighat area as well as small townships of artists near Kharagpur area.
Photo of Digha Beach, Contai, West Bengal, India by Kishnaa Samana
Photo of Digha Beach, Contai, West Bengal, India by Kishnaa Samana
Chandernagore also known as the "City of Liberty" is a small town located 30 kilometers north of Calcutta. Situated along the banks of River Ganges, the city has been able to keep herself separated from all other cities and abide by her own characteristics. The Underground House (Patal Bari) is a beautiful example of the advancement in the knowledge of architecture and the aesthetic sense of the people of those earlier days. Its lowest floor is submerged in the river Ganges. You can also visit the Institute de Chandernagore, one of the oldest and finest museums of the entire region, which boasts a beautiful collection of French items (cannons used in Anglo - French war, wooden furniture of the 18th century)
Photo of Chandannagar, Hooghly-Chinsurah, West Bengal, India by Kishnaa Samana