In 1991, the Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata was faced with an unusual situation: a sheet-metal sculpture of a bird with a 22ft wingspan could not get through the doors of the art gallery. The artist, Chitta Dey, had to clip the wings before it could finally go through. The bird’s proportions led an art critic to comment on its incongruity within a gallery space—the bird should have been smaller, he said. “That comment annoyed me,” says Dey. “I told him I had a certain vision for my creation and it isn’t my problem that the city lacked a gallery space big enough for it.”
In 1996, Dey found a space that was big enough. That year, the West Bengal government offered him an 800ft-high hill in Baghmundi in Purulia district. Pakhi Pahar, as it is known locally and in tourist brochures, is just the kind of canvas Dey, now 58, needed to realize his “dream”, a word that the graduate from Kolkata’s Government College of Art and Craft uses often.