India’s first art trade fair, starting today, will showcase 400 works by 200 artists from 35 galleries, but not one work of M.F. Husain’s.
“We issued an advisory about the real risk of including Husain,” said organiser Sunil Gautam, CEO of PR firm Hanmer & Partner, “since there will be art worth crores of rupees and thousands of visitors”.
Speaking to Hindustan Times from Dubai, Husain said he understands. “There are about 2,500 cases against me; 900 just from Goa. Everything is sub-judice. I understand.”
Gautam said the Indian art market is worth Rs 1,500 crore and growing at 35 per cent a year. “It’s the fourth most buoyant in the world. Must it be derailed by controversy attached to one artist?”
The Ministry of Culture, supports the event, “to the extent of letting us consult freely with the National Gallery of Modern Art,” said Gautam.
Not everyone shares his opinion. The non-governmental organisation Sahmat is holding a parallel exhibition to show Husain matters. “Why must civil society yield to brute force?” asked Sahmat spokesperson Rajan.
So, from Friday to Sunday, there will be two parallel shows in Delhi — the India Art Summit at Pragati Maidan and the Husain Summit, reproductions of his work at Rafi Marg.
“He is a very respected artist,” said Union Minister for Culture and Tourism Ambika Soni. “How can I comment on an exhibition I have never seen?”
(With inputs from Prasad Nichenametla)