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In Your City: Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad has a new address for artthe Kasturbhai Lalbhai Museum, which will be inaugurated on Sunday

Kasturbhai Lalbhai Museum.
Kasturbhai Lalbhai Museum.

Ahmedabad has a new address for art—the Kasturbhai Lalbhai Museum, which will be inaugurated on Sunday.

The brainchild of Sanjay Lalbhai, the chairman and managing director of Arvind Ltd, and his wife Jayshree, the museum started as a project to restore an ancestral home that was over a century old. It now aims to highlight the family legacy of the Lalbhais and share with people their collection of artefacts.

“The home was built by Laljibhai Sheth (Sanjay’s great-grandfather) in 1905," says Jayshree over the phone from Ahmedabad. “Subsequently, his three sons—Chimanbhai, Kasturbhai and Narottambhai—lived here with their families, and then moved out. In 1997-98, we moved out too. We didn’t want this house to deteriorate. So we thought of restoring it first and then putting it to some use."

The family also had a huge collection of artwork, most of it just kept in storage. So the home museum solved both problems.

The museum is spread across two buildings. The building adjacent to the ancestral home, the Claude Batley House built in the 1930s, will house temporary exhibitions, retrospectives of artists and work by young artists.

“While the main building will house old antiquities from the family collection, the building at the back will be earmarked for shows," says Jayshree.

It took architect Rahul Mehrotra about two-and-a-half years to restore the house. “Simultaneously, we were cataloguing and archiving our collection. So the entire process took about three-and-a-half years," she says.

There is also a small amphitheatre with a seating capacity of 250 for small cultural activities.

Just about 150-200 articles are on display in the first building, not a large number, but they have a “history spanning more than a thousand years". These include a collection of miniatures and other art that they acquired from the extended Tagore family in the 1930s, paintings from various schools such as Mughal, Rajasthani, Bengali, Deccan, and art in stone, metal and wood.

The second building is for modern and contemporary art. “We are in talks with many artists to bring their work and consulting with experts on how to run it," says Jayshree.

Free curated tours for the public will start from 16 February. The museum will be open from 10.15am-1pm and 3-6pm on all days except Wednesdays and public holidays.

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