The Galleries of Sapumal Foundation – An Aesthetic Retreat
Delicately veiled amidst the shrubberies and elite residencies of Barnes Place, the Galleries of Sapumal Foundation is an important landmark of the country’s cultural heritage. It is evident in its exterior that the gallery is not a gallery in a conventional sense, but a home that sustains a structural design that was commonplace in a previous era.

The house cum gallery was in fact the home of the late Harry Pieris. Assessing a number of portraits displayed in the hallway, it is acceptable to say that Harry was himself an artist. His contribution to art, besides his own work, includes perhaps the greatest patronage to the artistic realm of the country - the establishment of the Sapumal Foundation. This not only included his dwelling but also a vast amount of paintings and drawings which was a significant part of his personal collection.
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Maintaining over four hundred paintings, the gallery displays a large number of works executed by artists of the coveted ’43 group.  Members of this exclusive unit included Geoffrey Beling, George Claessen, Aubrey Collette, Justin Pieris Daraniyagala, Richard Gabriel, George Keyt, LTP Manjusiri, Ivan Pieris, Lionel Wendt and evidently Harry Pieris himself. Disregarding the boundaries of convention, this notorious band of talented misfits has been described as the crème de la crème of the local art scene, and are guilty of being “the greats” of that period.  - See more at:
The place itself is at least a century old. Prior to converting it in to a house, the premises consisted of three workmen’s cottages. Unlike the urbanised aesthetic it bears today, the surrounding area at that time was wholly unoccupied.

“Those days this wasn’t a residential area. During the early part of the British occupation, places such as Mutuwal were the populated parts of Colombo. This was an estate,” explained, chairman of the Foundation.
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While the vicinity has gone under severe changes since then, the original character and the atmosphere of the house has been preserved. Verifying this, Mr Rohan claims, “Except for a few careful placements so that visitors wouldn’t trip over anything, there have been no changes. From the garden to the sitting room area to his work station, everything has been preserved as it is”.

In addition to the artworks, the rooms in the house retain furniture and ornaments used by Harry Pieris and his family members.

Speaking of the creative treasures the abode hosts, he conveys, “Most of the paintings here are a part of Harry’s private collection. Others have been donated to the Foundation and one room in particular contains paintings loaned by The Ralph Pieris Bequest. Another one of these rooms showcases paintings by Jamini Roy an Indian artist who led Indian art in a modern direction”.
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Bearing priceless paintings of the illustrious George Keyt, entertaining caricatures of Bevis Bawa, intriguing photographs of the iconic Lionel Wendt, the walls of the gallery appear weary and the works even more so. They have aged and begun to deteriorate, and according to Mr. Rohan, “Restorers have given ideas and there were complications. We have decided to let them be as it is.”

However it must be noted that the paintings are arranged and curated collectively by the staff including himself.
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Rich with history, story and an impressive quantity of paintings, the galleries of the Sapumal Foundation are best described as an art museum. The serenity of the house is complete with its lush landscaped garden - a treat for anyone wanting a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. However the most important feature of the foundation is its unparalleled dedication to Sri Lankan art because even today it is the only establishment that houses mid twentieth century art that is open to the public.  - See more at:
© 2010