The imposing stone and brick edifice conveys well the everyday reality of Kashmir: a huge bunker rests at the gate of the building, cheek by jowl with coils of concertina wire. Security forces check everyone before allowing them in. Barracks of paramilitary forces lie in the grounds. The two-storey building—known as the “stone building”—constructed during the Dogra rule, in the old secretariat complex in Srinagar, now is a temporary art gallery showcasing heritage material as well as contemporary works of Kashmiri art. The gallery in the stone building was inaugurated by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha on August 15 this year. So far, only eleven persons, including this correspondent, have visited it.
Kashmir’s wait for a central art gallery has been overly long. The building earmarked for the state gallery is the 18th century Sher Garhi palace nearby—magnificent in its quadrangular stone facades, spacious corridors of faded brick, handsomely crafted wooden windows, often coupled with balustrades, that approach the floor, and wooden ceilings done in khatamband motifs. Restoration work on the grand palace that started in 2019 is still going on.