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Vol. XXX No. 4, June 1-15, 2020

Heritage Watch

The National Gallery, Egmore

As we are emerging from a lockdown, we thought we will begin it with some positive reporting. Of course, the very word positive has different meanings today, but we being dedicated to heritage, assure you that we mean the word in its old sense. And so we resume our heritage watch with a building that is being splendidly restored.

Envisaged as a memorial to Queen Victoria, this building, whose foundation stone was laid by the then Prince of Wales (later King George V), during his visit in 1905, was designed by Henry Irwin, its façade being modelled on the Bulund Darwaza, Fatehpur Sikri. It was completed in 1914 and became home to the Victoria Technical Institute, which functioned from here till 1951 when the structure was designated the National Gallery and came to house some of the Government Museum’s art collection.

By the late 1990s this building was in poor shape. A crack in the dome kept widening which resulted in the structure being emptied and the art collection kept under lock and key elsewhere. The Government woke up to its state in 2008 when rather curiously, it chose to spend money on repairing the compound wall rather than the main building. In 2012, restoration plans were announced and funds released in 2014. We are informed that repair work is nearly complete and that the structure will soon be put to use as a National Gallery. It has been listed as a Grade 1 structure in the Justice Padmanabhan Committee Report.

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