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French village snubs Indian painter

The French village Gorbio rejects an offer by artist Syed Haider Raza to donate his £7 mn collection, writes Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Oct 10, 2007 03:30 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt
Hindustan Times

Mumbai may get lucky if Gorbio declines. The southern France village had turned down an offer by artist Syed Haider Raza to donate his £7 million collection. And next on Raza’s list is Mumbai or Paris.

The Gorbio council — which is believed to be having second thoughts now — rejected the donation saying Raza’s condition that his works should be on regular display for the next 50 years was “unreasonable”.

Raza, 85, was born in Madhya Pradesh but has lived in France since 1949. He wanted to leave his personal collection to the municipality of Gorbio “in order to thank the people for all the happiness they have given me”.

Before agreeing to the bequest, Raza insisted that his works be viewed for four months every summer in the tower of Gorbio’s 12th century castle, its main tourist attraction. He offered to pay £500,000 for insurance and set up a foundation.

The council’s financial director Patrick Simon said: “For me this isn’t a donation. It’s an unfair bargain: Safeguarding the fame of an artist against any number of unknown factors.”

Raza, a Padma Shri awardee and the first non-French recipient of the prestigious Prix de la Critique, said: “One part of my heart and soul is in India and I am deeply attached to the country of my birth… the other part of my heart is in Gorbio.”

He wants to visit India in February next year to convert the foundations in Delhi and Mumbai into cultural centres. “I hope to help artists in all fields to attain their missions in life.”

Sunaina Anand of Art Alive Gallery says: “He may be living abroad but his soul is in India. A strong colourist, Raza’s paintings resonate the passionate, hot colours of India with all their symbolic, emotive value.”

Despite Gorbio’s unfavourable response to his offer, Raza’s keeping his hopes up “Things may be settled in a week or two. The donation has to be accepted through voting by council members.”

And sources say they will most likely accept it. They know that since the mayor refurbished the chateau for Raza’s exhibition, it has become the most popular destination for tourists.

First Published: Oct 10, 2007 03:15 IST