After Vishwaroopam it is the turn of “The Naked and the Nude” exhibition at Delhi Art Gallery to face opposition from a section of people. The women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has lodged a strong protest demanding that the exhibition be closed down as the works displayed in the gallery are nude and obscene paintings, showing women in bad light.
Kishore Singh, Head, Publication and Exhibition, Delhi Art Gallery, said: “I am in Mumbai and I am in touch with my office [Delhi Art Gallery]. We have been getting some calls and there are some visits from people with requests, but which I suspect to be slightly more coercive than that. We are being told to pull down the exhibition by representatives of organisations which I don’t feel the necessity to name. We have provided extra security. It’s an important exhibition historically and part of the great heritage of this country as it represents some of the great masters like F.N. Souza, M.F. Husain, K.H. Ara, Akbar Padamsee, Jahangir Sabawala, Sunil Das, Rekha Rodwittiya, Gogi Saroj Pal etc. there are about 170 works on display. It’s amusing ...You have to know art to critically evaluate it. They have jumped onto the bandwagon that you are denigrating women ... firstly, you are denying that male is also a form. Two, it is a sense of cowardice that you feel threatened when you see a woman unclothed in some form which might be a part of a narrative and help engage the viewer to understand Indian art.”
The world of art is not new to intolerance. Ram Rahman, who has been a strong voice condemning such protests that seek to quell freedom of expression, says:
“On my Facebook page, I have put two images — Dwilinga Lakulish in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, and that of a dancing Nataraja with an erect lingam from the Bhubhaneshwara museum. The former is a statue of two erect lingams.
“Another idea is to rotate these classical sculptures, along with all the Jain Tirthankars and Buddhist images (Though the Hindutva groups probably regard them as non-Hindus) with whatever paintings and sculptures they are showing.
“The dancing girl from Mohenjo Daro should be removed from the National Museum. Let’s shut our movie theatres, stop international cricket and hockey, stop Kashmiri youngsters from playing music, stop women from using mobiles.....and hooray...we will be Saudi Arabia....!!”
Artist Vibha Galhotra expressed dismay and shock. “If we look into our history, we will find enough instances ... Kali is often shown without clothes... what’s wrong with nudity in a painting? There is so much nudity in Bollywood but nobody objects to that. This is killing the expression of an artist.”
Another artist Manisha Gera Baswani is aghast at this development. “Can something like this happen in a country like India where nudity is resplendent in our history? We need to ask ourselves why as a society we are becoming so intolerant.”