MUMBAI: A day before acclaimed Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar’s five-month retrospective begins on June 1, UK daily The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones wrote off the exhibition and the works of the Indian master, accusing the Tate Modern gallery of wasting space on the show, incidentally titled Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All.
The art fraternity in India has responded with outrage, calling Jones everything from a ‘blowhard doofus’ to a ‘waste of time’ and ‘agonisingly embarrassingly ignorant’.
Art critic and curator Girish Shahne wrote on Facebook: ‘I’m always puzzled when people post articles by Jonathan Jones on their timelines, because I think he’s a blowhard doofus. This piece has settled any doubts I had on that score’.
To this, gallerist and curator Saloni Doshi wrote ‘How dare he call it a ‘waste of space’. He is a waste of time!’ Gallerist Shireen Gandhy added: ‘So agonisingly embarrassingly ignorant’.
Artist Gigi Scaria on Twitter said, ‘so @guardian just went fully racist/homophobic and called Bhupen Khakhar’s work tripe. what dugna lagaan is this?’
Jones in his review calls Khakhar ‘incredibly unimpressive’. He went on to say, ‘There is no self-knowing game or provocative crassness going on in his brightly coloured but emotionally inert paintings. He is genuinely just not much good’.
He suggests that a show of Khakhar at Tate Modern is a wrong choice. In his words, ‘Why are we supposed to be interested in this old-fashioned, second-rate artist whose paintings are stuck in a timewarp of 1980s’ neo-figurative cliche?’
Jones, however, adds that the Tate Modern’s curators “need to open their eyes to the brilliant, imaginative and truly modern art being made by young artists on the Indian subcontinent right now.”