This Ahmedabad billionaire’s mansion that’s now one of the country’s best-kept museums
Art lovers, this needs to be on your travel bucket list
In the foyer of the palatial Lalbhai ancestral home in Ahmedabad, a lady dressed in a stunning patola sari is holding court. Jayshree Lalbhai, whose single-handed mission has been to bring the family’s vast and varied art collection to a larger audience, is explaining how her father-in-law came to acquire the private archives of the famed Tagore brothers in Bengal. The story sounds like most others related to the late patriarch — Shrenik Lalbhai stepped in when no one, including the government of India, could afford or cared to, protecting the country’s art heritage from being parcelled off piecemeal to different parts of the world.
It makes sense then that the family decided to convert the home into the Kasturbhai Lalbhai museum, housing everything from Mughal miniatures and Tibetan thangkas to the first official work that Amrita Sher-Gill ever created at the age of 10. In the contemporary art premises, reimagined by architect Rahul Mehrotra from what used to be the servants’ quarters, works by Souza, Husain and Raza casually share space as their makers must have in the classrooms of Mumbai’s JJ School of Art.
Jayshree Lalbhai has been the museum’s most dedicated champion
The Lalbhai family’s plans for the space are ever-growing: inviting younger artists to showcase their work as part of temporary exhibits, a centre to chronicle the historic efforts of the family members in a building that will “disappear into the ground” upon completion, to name a few.
But even as the museum currently stands, radiating in the sunshine of spring, it’s already fulfilling a goal that Shrenik Lalbhai may have unwittingly set for himself over five decades ago.
The works of F.N Souza, M.F Husain and S.H.Raza on display within the contemporary space.