BLOUIN ARTINFO JULY 2016
It all began nearly 30 years ago, as a boutique antiques store. Udayshanth Fernando’s Paradise Road specialized in local crafts and collector’s pieces, the starting point of what would become a renowned group of modern galleries, and the Paradise Road Private Collection – the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Sri Lanka.
Perhaps the collection’s most prized item though, is one of its locations, the historic Tintagel, one of Colombo’s most important buildings. Leased to Fernando since 2005, the 1930 structure has an illustrious history apparent from the moment visitors enter the main gate on Rosmead Place, just off Viharamahadevi Park in the core of Sri Lanka’s capital. The two-story whitewashed building emanates a grandeur befitting of those have inhabited it, and today contains some of the city’s finest art too.
Tintagel was built by scholar Dr. Lucien de Zilwa as one of his two dream personal residences – the other being Tree Tops in Kandy. He was forced to relinquish Tintagel in 1942 to the British military, but with a hundred soldiers squeezed in, it soon lost its lustre. Zilwa sold it for 160,000 rupees to Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, who gave it to his son, Solomon West Ridgeway (S.W.R.D.), a man who would become Prime Minister in 1956.
S.W.R.D. was assassinated on the balcony of Tintagel on 26 September 1959. His widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, went on to become the modern world’s first female Prime Minister a year later, leading the country on three separate occasions. She lived in the property until her death in 2000, age 84, just a short time after completing her third term, and fittingly, on election day itself.
Fernando leased Tintagel in 2005 from Sunethra Bandaranaike, eldest daughter of S.W.R.D., who had initially thought to see it turned in to an embassy. Over two years and eight months, he fully restored Tintagel as a unique private hotel, which today hosts world leaders and royalty. “When Tintagel came into my hands I saw the potential of the building as a hotel, it had its own identity and a distinct style,” says Fernando.
Amidst the resplendence of the property, Fernando has carefully curated specific works by notable Sri Lanka artists, part of the extensive Paradise Road Collection and galleries that also includes the modern Saskia Fernando Gallery.
Between elegant furniture and marble columns, the lobby and first floor displays the work of Jagath Ravindra, a painter long associated with Paradise Road Galleries. “If somebody who looks at my paintings, smiles at something that made me smile, and cries at something that made me cry, then I have achieved something” says Jagath.
In the library, with its deep leather couches, busts and old photographs of its eminent former residents, visitors can find the work of Belgian-born, Sri Lankan-based Saskia Pintelon. Her style of bold, layered images have seen her exhibit in London and Singapore, via the Yavuz Gallery. In the dining room the photographs of Sri Lankan modernist Lionel Wendt cover the walls. A cinematographer and pianist called “the central figure of a cultural life torn between the death rattles of the Empire and a human appraisal of the untapped values of Ceylon” by poet Pablo Neruda, Wendt died in 1944 , but his name and influence lives on at the Lionel Wendt Art Centre in Colombo.
With ten suites, a private dining room, library, bar, pool and massage room, Tintagel is a private project turned Colombo’s most exclusive and immersive cultural and historical stay option for the modern traveler. “My establishments are for people who are sensitive to style, to taste,” says Fernando. “Finding old-fashioned things to mix with very modern is what I love most.”
For more on Paradise Road Galleries: www.paradiseroad.lk/art