On Thursday night, just hours after the third India Art Summit opened in Delhi, veteran artist MF Husain's works were pulled out of display.
For the past two years, organisers of the summit refused to display the artist's works as right wing groups threatened to vandalise the venue if they did. This time around, they felt it was safe enough to display the 96-year-old master's works.
However, at around 11am, threat calls and emails began to pour in, and by evening, they decided to remove his works from the fair. Husain's son, artist Shamshad Husain, is disappointed. "This is sad. The works were created so many years ago. I don't know why people are still after my father."
Last year, Husain, who has been living in exile in Dubai, spoke optimistically about returning to India soon. Now, his son feels that's impossible. "How can he ever come back? No one from the ministry, not a single person, has uttered a word to welcome him back. How can he take a risk? If he comes, they will kill him," he rues.
Ashish Anand of the Delhi Art Gallery, which was displaying Husain's works at the summit, says, "We were told at 7.30pm to pull off his works. We felt there was enough police protection, but the organisers got scared and felt otherwise." Anand faces a loss of Rs.7-8 croreS, the value of the Husains on display at the summit.
An official statement released by the organisers, Fourth Dimension, reads, "Due to security reasons, the works, unfortunately, cannot continue to be on display. We hope that in the future, the government can guarantee us a safer environment for the free showcase of all our legendary artists." Gallery owner Renu Modi agrees. "It's unfortunate, but what can the organisers do when they face a security threat?"
On Thursday, HT City raised questions about security arrangements at the fair, but the organisers had seemed confident that enough arrangements had been made.
With inputs by Aakriti Sawhney