Uttar Pradesh-based artist Balbir Krishan, 38, opened his second solo show in the Capital on December 30 at Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA). Titled, Out Here and Now, the exhibition had 20 artworks by Krishan based on the theme of homosexuality. On the third day of the show, Krishan got calls from unknown people asking him to remove his work as they thought the works were against moral ethics and can pollute the minds of many.
“I discussed this with the Akademi administration but they told me not to get worried”, said Balbir.
On the evening of December 5, Krishna was attacked by an unknown person on the premises of LKA. “This incident really shattered me and I thought I will remove my work and go back to my village.” But, with the help of the media and some gay rights activists, Krishan got an FIR lodged and is continuing his exhibition at Triveni Kala Sangam.
“Triveni Kala Sangam administration was a little reluctant to offer me the space after the controversy related to my work erupted. But, I had done all my paper work long before and had permission to continue my exhibition there,” says Krishan.
Ashok Vajpayee, ex-chairman, LKA, says, “Such an incident is most unfortunate and condemnable. One may have a different view or ideology but there is a proper way to address it, intellectually or critically, but nobody has a right to physically attack a person.”
Now, the exhibition, on at the Triveni Kala Sangam, will run till January 15. All the works of the artist are for sale, priced between Rs 35,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh. Most of the works are acrylic on canvas and a few are paper work.
During the attack, one of the artworks, titled This Is Not Dark Life, was destroyed.
“I have been working on my paintings for this particular exhibition for almost a year now and it’s disheartening for an artist to see his creation getting destroyed right in front of him. But, this incident has made me stronger and I will continue with what I believe in. There are all kinds of people in this society and everybody has a right to live their life and express themselves the way they want to. I want people to visit my exhibition and decide for themselves,” Krishan said.
Other art controversies in the past
Artist Pranava Prakash’s exhibition Stop That based on the theme of violence against women, created a huge controversy. His painting Your Turn depicted India’s noted painter MF Husain in the nude, which after several rejections, was finally shown at the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society art gallery.
During India Art Summit’s first edition in 2008, organisers refused to showcase Husain’s works, citing insufficient police protection. Husain’s works were taken off the walls following fears of attack, but they were later reinstated after an assurance from the Delhi police and ministry of culture.
In 2000, artist Surendran Nair’s painting, part of a group show at the National Gallery, depicted a winged figure preparing for flight atop an Asoka pillar topped with the lion-capital, the Indian national symbol. The bureaucrat-director of the gallery had the work removed on the ground of disrespect to a national symbol. All artists withdrew their work from the exhibition in an act of solidarity and launched an agitation.