Chaos keeps reigning at Academy of Fine Arts (AFA). On Tuesday, some of the members of the executive committee (EC) of AFA lodged a complaint with Hastings police station stating a casual employee of the institution is illegally holding the keys of the coveted Rabindra Gallery — having 37 Tagore paintings — and the board of trustees lodged another complaint stating a section of the EC members were trying to forcibly open the gallery.
“We have received a complaint from the executive committee as well as a countercomplaint from the side of the chairman of the trustee board. But it is a civil matter and internal affair of the AFA. We don’t have much to do,” Chandan Roy Mukherjee, officer-in-charge of Hastings police station, said.
Fresh trouble broke at this prestigious institution on September 3, when the director, Goutam Bose, went on a leave for 15 days and the Rabindra Gallery was closed. Factional feud at the AFA had kept the gallery closed since 2006 and it was reopened on August 8 for three hours everyday. The gallery has the richest collection of Tagore paintings in the city.
According to AFA sources, Ashok Mukherjee, president of the board of trustees of AFA, instructed Basu to keep the gallery closed until he joins on September 18. However, a section of the executive committee members felt this was an unjust decision to keep the gallery closed whenever the director would be on leave.
On September 7, the EC held a meeting in which they decided to reopen the gallery and gathered at the AFA campus on September 11 to open the gallery. However, Amitabha Gupta, curator of the AFA who is working on extension since he retired, refused to let them open the gallery without written instructions from Mukherjee.
This resulted in a heated conversation and the EC members then called the Hastings police station and soon police reached the spot. Gupta, however, refused to handover the keys to them. Seven members of the EC then lodged a complaint with the police, accusing Gupta of keeping the keys illegally.
“The curator is not a permanent employee and has been allowed only to do the stocktaking of other artifacts at the museum. But how could he remove the Tagore paintings from the walls of the Rabindra gallery?” Bulbul Roy, a member of the EC, told HT.
“This is an absurd idea that the gallery has to be closed whenever the director is not present. Such mismanagement cannot go on,” said Sunanda Mukherjee, another member of the EC who is also the chairperson of West Bengal women’s commission. Satyabrata Ganguly, one of the members of the board of trustees who had taken initiative in reopening the gallery, however, said that they could not have taken the risk of keeping the gallery open in absence of the director, as that would endanger the security of the paintings.
“The board of trustees is the custodian of the paintings and we will be held accountable for any damage or loss of the assets. Security of the paintings cannot be ensured without the director’s presence and the EC members are not dependable. They say they would be present to ensure security but often they do not come,” Ganguly said, adding, “We had informed all the EC members about this decision.”