More than half a century later, Ashish Anand, director of Delhi Art Gallery, feels he has stepped into the shoes of Padamsee.
“It seems we have not moved on,” he said on Wednesday, after battling protests against the exhibition “The Naked And the Nude: The Body in Indian Modern Art”.
The show that opened on February 1 has invited the wrath of Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s women’s wings, Matri Shakti and Durga Vahini.
On Wednesday afternoon, more than 50 activists from the organisations headed to the gallery, demanding that it should be discontinued. “It shows women in bad light and in provocative postures. Organised right after the Delhi gangrape case, the timing of the exhibition is not right,” Simmi Ahuja from Matri Shakti said.
Comprising works of over 60 artists, including Raja Ravi Varma, MF Husain, FN Souza, Jehangir Sabavala, Nalini Malini and Jogen Chowdhury, the exhibition features works spanning over a century.
While Anand said the exhibition was a “celebration of the genre”, Sanjana Chaudhary, state convenor of Durga Vahini, said, “The display does not represent Indian culture but insults it.”
She had visited the exhibition along with five-six other members of the VHP on Monday.
After a protest by them, the gallery had downed its shutters briefly on Monday and sought police protection. On Wednesday, Anand refused to stop the show that is scheduled to continue till March 15.
Gathered in support of the gallery were several art critics and artists including Manu Parekh, Veer Munshi, Manjunath Kamath, Chintan Upadhyay and Kanchan Chander.
“It’s our right to express freely. There are protests if we paint nudes, depict politicians, comment on social issues, what can we possibly depict?” Upadhyay said.
Munshi added, “I don’t know if as a society we are moving forward or backward.” After voicing their protest for over an hour, the activists returned, threatening to come back with a bigger group.
In Recent Past
2013: Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath removed nude paintings of Delhi-based artist Anirudh Sainath Krishnamani that depicted Hindu gods and goddesses.
January 2012: Artist Pranav Prakash claimed that he was attacked for exhibiting his nudes of celebrities in a Noida gallery.
January 2012: Balbir Krishan was assaulted by unidentified men at his solo exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi that had paintings depicting homoerotic scenes.
March 2012: The closure of Sunil Gupta’s photo exhibition “Sun City & Other Stories” that was an exploration of gay life at Alliance Francaise, Delhi.