Rs 15 million restoration project of ‘Man and Mysterious Space’ shelved?: Saddequain’s mural in doldrums

* Restoration plan was devised under former museum director

* Indian conservationists visited museum in April to supervise restoration

* New director says he is unaware services of Conservation Laboratory in-charge terminated

By Ali Usman

LAHORE: A Rs 15 million project of restoring ‘Man and the Mysterious Space’ – a mural at the Lahore Museum painted by legendary artist Saddequain is in doldrums and work on it has been stopped since the new museum director took charge, sources told Daily Times.

The mural has deformed over the years due to heat and other factors and might fall at any moment, the sources said. They said funds for the project had been approved and artists from Pakistan were to work under the guidance of two foreign conservationists. The restoration was to be completed in three to five years.

Sources told Daily Times that Muhammad Waseem, the in-charge of the Lahore Museum’s Conservation Laboratory, who was hired specifically for the project, has now been removed from service and his contract terminated.

Indian visitors: They said two Indian artists visited the Lahore Museum in April and a plan was devised to restore the mural. They said there is no qualified restoration expert in Pakistan. The two Indian artists who were to train Pakistani artists (from the National College of Arts and the Naqsh School of Arts) for the project were expert restorers of such murals. They also trained some Pakistani artists in restoration work back in 2006. They restored four paintings at the Lahore Museum and have also worked on a similar mural at India’s Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s House). When they visited the museum in April, it was decided that they would visit Pakistan every three months for supervision, while the Pakistani artists would work on the actual restoration.

A member of the Lahore Museum Board of Governors told Daily Times that a complete plan had been devised for the preservation and restoration of the historic mural. The member said panels of oil painted on canvas were to be removed one by one and then restored and fixed again. Meanwhile, a replica painting of the mural was to be placed in its place. The member said the restoration project seemed to have been abandoned since the museum’s new director Dr Kamran Cheema was appointed. “The mural can fall at any moment and needs to be restored immediately,” the member said.

Unaware: Lahore Museum Director Dr Kamran Cheema said work would be done on the mural, but declined to give any detail. He said he was unaware that the services of the Conservation Laboratory in-charge had been terminated. Cheema said he did not know the schedule of the Indian restorers’ arrival.

‘Man and the Mysterious Space’ is considered one of the greatest attractions at the museum. Completed on August 3, 1973, the mural is 95-foot long, 25-foot wide, and is hoisted 37 feet from the floor. The mural comprises 46 panels of oil painted on canvas. The panels are stretched on a wooden frame, and present an eye-catching view. The mural hangs at a distance from the ceiling. The mural speaks of man’s ultimate struggle, which is compared with the infinitude of space. Eventually, man is depicted as winning over space, and capturing its very essence.

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