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The bare and the beautiful

Shailaja Tripathi
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An exhibit at the Delhi Art Gallery.— PHOTO: By Special Arrangement
An exhibit at the Delhi Art Gallery.— PHOTO: By Special Arrangement

A young media professional, Chandni Singh, has a female nude sketch in her living room. She is now aspiring for a male nude for her bedroom. “I would love to have a beautiful male nude in charcoal. If our religion can allow our sadhus to be completely naked then what are we talking about.”

So is Chandni buying for voyeuristic pleasure and by having such paintings at home, is she denigrating women and men? For Chandni, the whole argument put forth by the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, is quite mindless.

The fact of the matter is that there is Chandni and many more like Chandni who see nothing wrong in displaying nudes in their living rooms. They are struck by the beauty of the human anatomy.

And exhibits at the Delhi Art Gallery (where the show “The Naked and the Nude” continues under heavy security) are not a rarity. Such imagery is not difficult to find in the market. In quaint art galleries of Hauz Khas village and Lajpat Nagar, one has access to nude paintings.

It’s just that in the well-publicised exhibition, the right-wing protesters saw a perfect opportunity to stir up a controversy.

At the Central Cottage Industries Emporium in Janpath, Apsara busts and several other semi-nude figures, can be seen. A semi-nude figurine of goddess Lakshmi and a mother and child in dhokra are for everybody to see.

It’s interesting to note that the sculptures are reproductions or inspired by the original sculptured temples of Khajuraho, and are made available for the decorative purposes of beautifying one’s home. Ameeta Ranade, a buyer at the Cottage, had no objection to any of the stuff on display. “These are part of our culture. We have them at home.”

In the art galleries of Hauz Khas village, they are easy to acquire. Though the gallery didn’t have nudes in their space at the time when we visited it, the gallerist told us that they can get an artist to do whatever kind of work we want.

Another gallery, showed us nude works, one after another, done by well-known artists as well as young upcoming ones. A work by an artist called Rajesh Shrivastava, he said wasn’t available as it had gone somewhere to be shown. Nude couples, female nudes in an array of colour palettes and in different mediums were available at this gallery. Trying to sell a resplendent green nude by Kajal Sarkar, the gallery owner said, “If I priced it according to his pricing today, then it should be somewhere around Rs. 50,000. Since I bought it some years ago, I have priced it at Rs. 12,000, in accordance with what price he commanded then.”

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