Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | June 11, 2012

A trip to the Art Gallery

Prior to moving to Auckland, I have hardly ever visited Art exhibitions or galleries. I quite enjoyed spending time in New Delhi’s India Habitat Centre (which happened to be near my first work place) appreciating its architecture but that is about it.

As a child every time I visited Calcutta’s Indian Museum, Birla Science and Technology Museum or Nehru Children Museum, I felt excited. As I grew older, there were fewer visits but I still hoped that these places are maintained properly.

My move to Auckland rejuvenated my fondness towards a Museum. Auckland Museum was the first ever place that we visited in New Zealand on the second day of our arrival. We were spellbound. Nearly four years back that day, the museum expected donations from every visitor. Nothing stops you to donate even now but now it is free to residents of Auckland. We visit Auckland museum quite regularly. Somehow there is something new every time we visit.

We were privileged to visit Christchurch before earthquakes started impacting the beautiful city. It is sad that Christchurch’s iconic arts centre got destroyed in the subsequent earthquakes. However, I am sure to the extent possible the artefacts would be restored.

Last Sunday, we visited the Auckland Art Gallery for the first time. Though this is very near to our place but somehow we never visited the gallery prior to this day. Our visit was inspired by a friend of mine who informed me that the gallery is really entertaining for children (even toddlers)! I am not certain how many in India will take their children to art galleries but when we went inside the gallery we found there were too many people here willing to do exactly that.

As I noted, our experience of visiting museums and art galleries are really limited but we found the Auckland art gallery entertaining. There was variety of reasons for that which I try to detail below.

One, is our little son loved the spacious galleries where he could walk without being pushed or shoved by the crowd, identify objects which he sees daily in the paintings and sculptures, get enthralled by the presentation of some of the objects especially things like a room where the walls and floors are all made up of mirrors (ala Enter the dragon).

Secondly, we not only loved the exhibits but for us, a few myths such as “art galleries were boring” or “we do not appreciate art” were broken. I think anything presented beautifully appeals to people who have an eye for such thing. With no disrespect meant for the artists, but I think somehow we failed to appreciate the galleries in India and hence even though they housed beautiful creations we were not attracted towards them.

Thirdly, the amenities in Auckland art gallery are brilliant. For example: so that children get excited while visiting the gallery there is a huge room dedicated to them. In that room, children can play with various shapes, draw, enjoy toys such as Kaleidoscope or make sculptures etc. In that room none stops a child from using the crayons, or wasting paper while drawing or even sitting the way they want to. Yes, no instruction such as “sit-and-draw”. We simply loved this room in the gallery. Such rooms exist even in the Auckland museum and the library.

The Art gallery is free too; however, we would have paid if it was expected.

I remember when I was growing up; I showed some interest in drawing. My parents got me various tutors at different times to help shape up my artistic abilities. While my skills did not deteriorate, they did not improve either. As a family, we gave up after a while. Whatever I learnt, I learnt from my parents. They are good artists themselves but I wish I could go to places such as Auckland art gallery when I was a kid.

While the entire world in times of recession discusses austerity, greed, bail-outs, corruption etc, I sincerely hope that these beautiful little things in countries such as New Zealand are not wiped out from the world. I have never really seen such places in India and I feel that every child in the world should get to experience such places.
Just came to know that the Hans Christian Andersen Award is the highest international recognition given to an author and an illustrator of children’s books.


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