#MeToo hits the art world; Jatin Das, Riyas Komu named

Eminent painter Jatin Das.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The #MeToo movement has spread to the world of art, with several women coming forward with allegations against prominent artists.

While artist and Padma Bhushan awardee Jatin Das has vehemently denied allegations of sexual misconduct against him by Mumbai-based entrepreneur Nisha Bora, Scene And Herd, an anonymously run Instagram account has posted an account that recalls an incident involving artist and co-founder of Kochi Muziris Biennale, Riyas Komu.

30 accounts

The account currently has 30 posts, and until going to press, had named Mr. Das, curator Rahul Bhattacharya, and sculptor Valsan Koorma Kolleri. The rest of the posts are anonymous.

In a Twitter post on Wednesday, meanwhile, another woman, Garusha Katoch, accused Mr. Das of sexually harassing her.

On Tuesday, Ms. Bora had posted a series of Twitter posts that detailed her experiences as an artist’s assistant with Mr. Das. She said, “I met Jatin Das in the summer of 2004 at a dinner event at the India International Centre, Delhi. The dinner had been hosted by my father-in-law… I was 28 years old… I was visiting Delhi from Bengaluru, and had a few days to spare. Jatin chatted with me for a bit, and asked what I did and whether I had the time and willingness to assist him for a few days to organise his work material. I was delighted to say yes. It would be an honour to work with a brilliant artist, to have the opportunity to see and handle his priceless art close up.”

Ms. Bora then went on to describe what took place when she visited Mr. Das’s studio in Khidki Village, after a day spent working for him at his home in Asiad Village. “I visited Jatin in his studio... I don’t recall the time of day, but that it was well within daylight hours. He poured himself some whiskey; offered me one too, but I refused. It was a wonderfully cluttered space filled with creative energy. The next thing I knew, he attempted to grab me. I wriggled out of his embrace, flustered. Then he did it again. This time, he managed a clumsy kiss on my lips… I pushed him away, and moved away from him. At that moment, he said, ‘Come on, it would be nice’. Or something like that… I picked up my bag, stepped out into the sun, and ran home. Never to speak about it. Until now,” the post said.

Riyas Komu, Secretary, Kochi Biennale Foundation.

Riyas Komu, Secretary, Kochi Biennale Foundation.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Shocked, says Das

Speaking to news agency PTI, the 76-year-old Mr. Das denied all the allegations. “I am shocked. All kinds of things are happening these days... Some people do things and some people make allegations. I don’t know her, I have never met her, and even if I did [meet] somebody somewhere one doesn’t behave like this... It is vulgar,” he said.

Ms. Bora’s response has been to reach out to survivors of sexual misconduct through social media, especially those who might have stories on Mr. Das to share. When contacted by The Hindu, Ms. Bora said she was compelled to share her story after talking to several senior women artists who were afraid to speak out. “I was told that this was par for the course. They brushed it off, saying they have all dealt with this.” Ms. Bora said several survivors have been reaching out to her with their personal stories.

Mr. Komu, meanwhile, did not respond to phone calls and messages from The Hindu.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 1:46:45 PM |

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