Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta Heritage, General, Kolkata Museum, Museum > Ghare Baire (The World, The Home and Beyond), 18th – 20th Century Art in Bengal, Old Currency Building, Kolkata

Ghare Baire (The World, The Home and Beyond), 18th – 20th Century Art in Bengal, Old Currency Building, Kolkata

Ghare Baire (The World, The Home and Beyond)

18th – 20th Century Art in Bengal

Old Currency Building, Kolkata

2019 saw the opening of several themed based museums in Kolkata. They include the I am Calcutta (আমি কলকাতা) Museum in Metcalfe Hall, Icon of Nationalism Museum at the National Library, Reserve Bank of India Museum and the Theatre Museum in Salt Lake.

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Old Currency Building housing the Ghare Baire, 18th – 20th century art gallery of Bengal

The beginning of 2020 was marked with the inauguration of a Bengal Art Gallery by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the historic Old Currency Building. Titled Ghare Baire (ঘরে  বাইরে) The World, The Home and Beyond the museum focuses on 18th – 20th century Art in Bengal.

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Interiors of the Old Currency Building with demolished domes

Although the museum or the gallery is new but the Old Currency Building which houses it is almost two centuries old. Built in 1833 the Italian styled three storied building  once housed the office of the Agra Bank.

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Reception, Ghare Baire Art Gallery

The building stands at the corner of BBD Bagh (formerly Dalhousie Square) at the crossing of Old Court House Street and R N Mukherjee Road.

Entrance is through a portico on the western side. The portico is supported with beautiful decorated wrought iron pillars and arches.

The entrance is through three arched doraways fitted with wrought iron gates with floral ornamentation.

The building was centred around a huge hall which was topped with three massive domes. Sky lights near the dome let in natural lights to illuminate the interiors.

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Inner Eye, Art Gallery for the Visually Impaired

Agra Bank operated from this building till 1868 after which it was taken over by the British India Government and served as the Office of Issue and Exchange of Government Currency and came to be known as the Currency Building.

The first two floor of the building served as office space and the top floor served as the residence of the commissioner in charge of the office.

The huge hall in the ground floor had several exchange counters, exchanging gold, silver and currency. Special masonry vaults lined with metals, to prevent break ins,  were created for the safe custody of gold, silvery and currency.

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Gallery of Satajit Ray’s photos by Nemai Mukherjee, Ghare Baire, Old Currency Building

The Currency Building also served as the office of the Reserve Bank of India from 1936 – 37. The building continued to be use till 1994 and in 1996 the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) was given the task of demolition of the beautiful building.

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Sculpture Gallery, Ghare Baire

However the Kolkata Municiapal Corporation (KMC) and Indian National Trust of for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) intervened and demolition was stopped.

Finally the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) was given the responsibility of conserving it.

But the damage had already been done. The three massive domes which crowned the first floor hall was demolished and the damage was beyond repairs.

Although the domes have disappeared the ASI have been able to give the old Currency Building a new lease of life. The building have been carefully conserved for the new generation and in the process maintaining the original character of the building.

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Old photos along the staircase of Ghare Baire, Old Currency Building

The latest addition to the Old Currency Building happened at the beginning of 2020 with the inauguration of an art gallery by the name Ghare Baire (ঘরে  বাইরে) The World, The Home and Beyond housing Bengal Art from the 18 th – 20 th century.

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European Artish in Bengal Gallery, Ghare Baire

The museum was commissioned by the Ministry of  Culture, Government of India and curated by DAG in collaboration with National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA).

The exhibits cover a diversified aspect of Bengal Art spanning over two centuries. From the folk art narratives to the the Bengal School of Modern Art r from the art works of travelling Europen artist to the trained artist of Shantiniketan.

Today the entrance is through the beautiful wrought iron gates with floral designs. A registration desk on the left and a sales counter of ASI greats visitors to the Ghare Baire Museum. A reception area follows leading to the large hall once crowned with the three gigantic domes.

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A collection of photos from the Early Bengal Indigenous Art Gallery, Ghare Baire, Old Currency Building

The domes have long gone but the old hall has given given a open air gallery look with sculptures and paintings fitted within the arches. The ground floor is more of open space and houses just three galleries, namely

  1. Inner Eye (art for visually impaired)
  2. Sculpture in Bengal
  3. Photos of Satayjit Ray by Nemai Ghosh
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A collection of photos from the Early Bengal Indigenous Art Gallery, Ghare Baire, Old Currency Building

The small gallery of Inner Eye has a handful of paintings. Apart from the normal painting hanging on the wall the paintings are provided with detailed description in braille along with elevated impression of the painting.

The sculpture gallery hosts a array of sculpture of different media covering the cultural history of ingenious people to sophisticated European formats. The ground floor also houses a small seminar hall.

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Early Bengal Indigenous Art Gallery, Ghare Baire, Old Currency Building

Third and final gallery in the ground floor contains several photos of Satyajit Ray shot by the famous photographer Nemai Ghosh. Apart from the photos also displaced are Nemai Ghosh’e cameras and other equipment.

The sculpture gallery hosts a array of sculpture of different media covering the cultural history of ingenious people to sophisticated European formats.

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Potochitra paintings, Ghare Baire, Old Currency Building

The upper floors of the Old Currency Building are approached by two flights of stairs. The one on the south side leads to the first floor only while the north one leads to both the upper floors. Both the stairs are lined with old photos and posters.

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Print Making Gallery

The first floor contains several galleries including:

  1. European Artists in Bengal
  2. Early Bengal Indigenous Art
  3. Realism and Academic Art in Bengal
  4. Bengal School – A New Aesthetics
  5. Devi – the Goddess
  6. Print Making – Democratizing Art

The corridor of first floor has a graphic representation of the Development of Art in Bengal – A Critical Time Line both in English and Bengali. It begins at 1769 and ends at 1919. The time line continues in the second floor and ends at 2001. The corridors of all three floors are lined with photos and brief bios of eminent artist of the 18th – 20th century.

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Bengal Modernist Gallery

Each of the galleries are not only lined up with photos but also exhibits several related artifacts.

For example the print making gallery exhibits printing block and other equipment used for printing.

Each of the paintings comes with details descriptions of the title, artist name and medium of art.

Each of the galleries have detailed description of the art style in both English and Bengali and even contains quotes from eminent artists and well known art critiques and historians.

Religion and art are the names for one and the same experience – an intuition of reality and identity

Ananda Coomaraswamy (Art Historian)

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Bengal Modernist Gallery, Ghare Baire, Old Currency Building

The second and the final floor focuses more on Bengal’s Modernist Art with special emphasis on Shantiniketan Style of Art. This floor also house a small gallery dedicated to Bengal’s Man Made Famine.

The artist is an Emperor. All styles and techniques are aides attending, following or serving him. Each may become his commander in chief, minister, queen, prince, councillors or take any other role.

Nandalal Bose (Artist)

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Bengal’s Man Made Famine Gallery, Ghare Baire, Old Currency Building

Located at the heart of the business district in Kolkata the Ghare Baire (ঘরে  বাইরে) The World, The Home and Beyond is already attracting a lot of visitors. Although till date most of the visitors are just casual drop ins but a proper promotions can do wonders.

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A visitor at Ghare Baire, Old Currency Building

Modern Indian Art originated from the revolution of Indian art. Each artist is surrounded by ideas and envoirnmet of his time

Abanindranath Tagore (Artist)

Necessary Information:

  • Museum is open from 10 am – 5 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Monday and national holidays
  • No entry fee
  • Photography allowed
  1. February 5, 2020 at 12:13 AM

    Another excellent and interesting post from you!! Thank you!

  2. The Scurvy Dawg
    February 19, 2020 at 6:46 PM

    Great! I shall put this on my list next time I visit Kolkata

  3. February 21, 2020 at 2:10 PM

    You’ve outdone yourself this time.
    This is probably the best, most concise step-by-step guide I’ve ever seen on how to build a successful blog.

  1. August 6, 2020 at 2:40 AM
  2. September 5, 2020 at 12:13 PM

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