A branch of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) was unveiled in Bangalore on Wednesday, but the debate between modernity and tradition came to the fore with a group of artists protesting state Medical Education Minister Ramachandra Gowda's comment on modern art and Indian heritage.
"I welcome modern art, but modern art should not distort heritage. Only pseudo-intellectuals distort traditional art of India," Gowda said while speaking in the presence of Culture and Tourism Minister Ambika Soni, who inaugurated the Bangalore chapter of the art gallery.
Taking exception to Gowda's statement, Bangalore artist M.S. Murthy asked the minister not to comment on modern art and artists as he was not an authority on art.
Murthy was supported by several artists at the function, which was disrupted for a few minutes as police officials, on Gowda's directions, took Murthy out of the NGMA premises, located at the sprawling heritage building of Manikyavelu Mansion, five kilometres from the city centre.
"He is no authority to comment on modern art and artists. How could he call artists pseudo intellectual?" Murthy told reporters after he was led out of the gallery.
Agreeing with Murthy, artist Dinesh Magar said: "First the minister should have some authority to talk on art and artists. This is not the right place to comment on modern artists' creativity. This is a sensitive subject and any artist would take offence to the minister's comment."
Soni inaugurated the gallery that will act as the southern regional centre.
Around 500 paintings, artefacts and sculptures selected from the repository of NGMA, New Delhi, were displayed at the Bangalore gallery on the inaugural day under an exhibition titled 'Signposts of the Times - from the collection of NGMA".
"NGMA Bangalore will serve as a platform for the Karnataka artist community. The gallery will hold both national and international exhibitions. Several exhibitions under the cultural exchange programme would now be showcased at the gallery with the objective of exhibiting the best, and thus in turn being a stage for the cultural ethos of our times in this era of globalization," Soni said.
A group of Bangalore artists also staged a two-hour long silent protest at the NGMA premises as most of them did not get any formal invitation to participate in the inaugural function.
"They did not send invitations to even the senior-most artists of Bangalore. They neglected the local artist fraternity," alleged Murthy.
Acclaimed artist S.G. Vasudev told reporters that he got the invitation only Tuesday evening. "I received the invitation very late. Anyway I would have come as I've been closely associated in bringing NGMA to Bangalore."
Jawhar Sircar, secretary in the ministry of culture, said the invitation had been sent by courier to all artistes, but probably they did not reach them in time.
"It was a glitch. We sent 600 invites to Bangalore artists. We regret that and want all the artists of Karnataka to take part in NGMA's upcoming events," Sircar said.