Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Even though Delhi High Court ruling dismissed the criminal cases against the painter M.F. Husain for the supposed crime of obscenity, The right wing fundamentalists of India continue to threaten the greatest surviving artist of India. Recently they went to the extent of vanadalising and destroying some of the rare works of Hussain even though the present set of works did not depict any Indian Goddess or nudity.

But then right wing groups have their own thinking which may not match with that of the Indian Constitution. But can the government of India also adopt such an outlook? Particularly a government that seems to have been elected on secularity plank? This is the question that was raised by SAHMAT (The trust that was formed when Safdar Hasmi was killed by communal goondas of the Sangh Parivar).

In the recently held India Art summit at New Delhi's Pragati Maidan, MF Hussain was conspicuously absent. The summit was organised by GOI's Ministry of Culture and Tourism and was touted as the first and the largest summit of art organised in the lines of Binnales in Paris and New York. It had Christie's as the official sponsors. It had tie up with IndianArtCollectors.com for online publicity and CNBC TV for media publicity. It was published that the summit was going to hold important matter of art in a forum where important artists, industry people, art collectors, academicians and buyers of art will interract and where international observers will participate.

The truth however turned out to be different. The most important issue that afflicts art today is the threat form the fundamentalists. They have ransacked Hussain's works, they have assaulted dalit artist Chandramohan at Baroda they have even physiclly assaulted Jatin Das. Yet this matter was not at all discussed at the summit. The Summit also did not discuss the matters related to gross commercialization of art by a handful of galleries, the constant production of fakes, the problems of constant seperation of art from other streams of studies.

It did not even discuss the newer trends in art today, the trends that have come up due to individual efforts made by the new breed of youngsters in a post-liberalized India.

Infact all that we got to hear at the art-discussion forum was opinions of gallery-owners about the arts that are there in their own stocks. Even artists invited to the forum included only those whom the galleries called. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism did nothing to screen the participants. No artist was called from South India or North East India. Artists of various genre were also not called.

The truth is that Ministry of Culture and its IAS officers know nothing about art. In the 80s Satyajit Ray had criticized them for sabotaging the Calcutta Film Fare and spoiling its very intent. Now like minded intellectuals under a common trust called SAHMAT have boycotted the India Art Summit for not doing anything about Hussain's victimization and for keeping mum about important issues that afflict the Indian Art Scene.