The Gallery Cafe is a Colombo institution. While the cafe/restaurant portion of the dual use space gets more attention (chocolate nemesis is its own art form) the gallery portion, which occupies the entrance hall and the building’s first courtyard, is one of the city’s most important art spaces. The restaurant’s popularity and the fact that you must pass through the gallery to get to your food means that the artists displayed get considerable and immediate exposure. Even those intimidated by or who profess to be un-interested in art end up absorbing the canvases as they make their way towards lemon meringue pies and tamarind margaritas.
Shanth Fernando, the owner of the Paradise Road empire of design curates all the exhibitions himself and uses his space as a platform to promote artists he thinks are going places. He sets the bar fairly high so you always get a certain standard of work and work that complements the gallery’s beautiful space – formerly Geoffrey Bawa’s office. That excellent food and drink can be had on the premises means you get your art with a side of sweet or savoury satisfaction – which, in this very food-oriented city of ours, is as it should be.
What we saw: Anup Vega’s – kala chakra which features perhaps two dozen spectral renditions of that most Sri Lankan of plants – the coconut tree. Really while coconuts trees might abound across the tropics I believe there’s something particular about the ones on this island – the way they twist, and filter light, Anup seems to agree.
Prices: In line with those at other galleries ranging for a few tens of thousands of rupees to several lakhs depending on the exhibition. Anup Vega’s coconut tree seemed to start at about Rs 100 000.