* By Afnan Khan
LAHORE: Croweaters, the art gallery situated in a 150-year-old building in Anarkali, may soon be closing its doors as the owners have decided, in principle, to shut it down due to a perceived lack of appreciation of the liberal arts.
The gallery’s fate appears to have been directly tied to that of its owner, MP Bhandara, who died in a road accident in June 2008, during his visit to China. Bhandara and his family have owned the site for more than 150 years and his ancestors used to both live in the current art gallery and run several businesses, including a restaurant, a café, a liquor shop and finally an art gallery.
The gallery was officially launched under the name of Croweaters in 1999 — a name Bhandara chose to depict his affection for his sister, Bapsi Sidhwa, who has earned world renown for her books, including The Crow Eaters, The Bride and An American Brat. From the time it started until now, the gallery has hosted dozens of art exhibitions, including works by Tasaduq Suhail, Changaiz Sultan, Mashkoor Raza and Naheed Raza. The gallery also contains a collection of 200 rare paintings created by famous painters such as Gulgee, Sadqain and Ahmad Khan. Speaking to Daily Times, one of the gallery workers said that the people working in the place were true art lovers and had developed an emotional relationship to the gallery due to both its artistic background and their affiliation with MP Bhandara.
Lahore’s jewel: “The gallery is now holding its last exhibition and silently moving towards its closure like a sinking boat. The place will soon exist only in the memories of those who earned fame and gained recognition for their work by displaying it here and for those who used to visit the place to have personalised meetings with their friends and loved ones. The closure of the gallery on October 31 will mean a great loss to the jewels of Lahore’s crown,” Curator and general manager of the gallery Nayab Shami said. She said that the present owners of the gallery had already told all the staff members that they would close the gallery by the end of October, adding that they had kept it open this long to hold a last exhibition of the miniature works of the students of the National College of Arts. The artwork currently on display includes the paintings Unsighted illusions, Suspended, Reminiscences, Entangled, Skin part 4, and Meeting Point Part 1 and Part 2. All the paintings have been created with Gouache on wasli. Some additional works – Untitled, Spirals, Line exercise 2 — were created with human hair on wasli. The artists on display are Sana Mehmood, Ammara Khalid, Rehana Mangi and Nerissa Fernandez.
Nayab said that the artwork was of a modern bent, adding that the availability of galleries such as Croweaters had helped such art flourish in the country. She said that the place had a very significant background due to the presence of an old restaurant and café, which was the only place in the city that served Parsi food such as Dhaan Saag, Accouri on Toast and Coconut Curry with Bran.
“The death of our pioneer MP Bhandara proved to be the death of this historic place, which was known for its location in the heart of the ancient cultural hub of the whole region. Locals and foreigners used to throng the place in large numbers to enjoy the taste of Eastern food in an historic and preserved building,” she added.
Hostility: A server at the restaurant adjoining the gallery said that the owners had told them that conditions in the city had greatly changed and there was now a lot of hostility against the liberal arts and culture. He said that they had explained that this development had resulted in people losing interest in the gallery and the café. “The workers have lived through thick and thin together during their service in the gallery. They have even faced threats during riots in the city, especially when a local restaurant was attacked by angry mobs. However, they never faced any negative attitude throughout their career,” he added.
* Published in the Daily Times