To pay a tribute to the Progressive Artists’ Group, the India Harmony Foundation, which seeks to build bridges between people of different faiths, is hosting a month-long exhibition at Gallery Defence in Defence Colony here these days.

The exhibition, by India Harmony Foundation is showcasing paintings by the who’s who of Indian art like M. F. Husain, Francis Newton Souza, S. H. Raza and Krishen Khanna who as members of the Progressive Artists’ Group made a vital contribution to the contemporary art movement. In all there are 60 art works including paintings of Jamini Roy and B. N. Arya.

According to IHF founder Kulsoom Saifullah, the organisation seeks to bring together on a single platform the creative efforts of talented individuals of all faiths and regions across the country. “This art show is the result of collaboration between IHF and Progressive Art Gallery to project the diverse art forms of internationally-renowned and upcoming artists. IHF was set up to celebrate plurality of our culture and has distinguished founder trustees like former Haryana Governor A. R. Kidwai, former Cabinet Secretary Zafar Saifullah, and National Minority Commission member Keki N. Daruwala.”

Pointing out that the main objective of the exhibition is to raise funds for smaller non-government organisations working for inter-cultural understanding, Ms. Saifullah said: “We are supporting NGOs like Borderless World Foundation which supports children orphaned by terrorism and violence. It has four schools in Kashmir and one in Pune. ‘Ayodhya Ki Awaz’ has members from Hindu and Muslim communities who undertake a walk from Faizabad to other cities where they sing and interact with the locals. This year we are sponsoring a walk from Faizabad to Kashmir. Then there is ‘Phool Walon Ki Sair’ in which lawyer Usha Kumar has kept alive a 150-year-old tradition by undertaking a walk with other people from Chandni Chowk to the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Qutubuddin Kaki and the Devi Jogmaya Mandir.”

IHF has also instituted a scholarship for an economically-marginalised artist from the minority community. “There are so many artists who are living in penury. Even M. F. Husain in his initial years had to struggle to eat two square meals a day and slept on footpath. He painted film posters to make a living,” Ms. Saifullah added.

Speaking about the Progressive Artists’ Group, Ms. Saifullah said it was formed to demonstrate to the world that India has a range of artists who can compete against anyone in the world. “Before the group’s formation, there was a preconceived notion that India has only ethnic artists who excelled in producing elephants and horses. Souza, S. H. Raza, M. F. Husain and S. M. Krishna had the determination and talent to showcase the diversity and richness of their art. Their works continue to command a huge price on the international art scene.”

The group was keen to break free from the shackles of the revivalist nationalism set up by the Bengal school of art and give a fillip to Indian avant garde art on the international arena. The intention was to “paint with absolute freedom for content and technique”.

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