Artists at loggerheads with NGMA in Bengaluru as well

The NGMA administration has introduced an entry fee of ₹20.   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

Actor-director Amol Palekar's recent statements at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai criticising the administration’s attempts to silence him has stirred up a hornet's nest in the city as well, giving a fillip to artists who were already at loggerheads with the national gallery over multiple issues.

For at least two months, several artists have been boycotting the NGMA in Bengaluru over its decision to charge an entry fee and disbanding the advisory committee to the administration.

“The NGMA administration has imposed an entry fee of ₹20. It’s not about the quantum of money, but the principle that it is a public democratic space that should genuinely remain so. The advisory committee was the only forum where artistes – the biggest stakeholders – were a part of decision making,” said senior artist Suresh Kumar G. of VAG Forum, which was formed to fight privatisation of Venkatappa Art Gallery.

A senior artist said, “The double onslaught of entry fee and the disbanding of the advisory committee robbed NGMA of its democratic public character and is threatening to make it into an elite club.” The community is concerned about repeated threats to the public nature of art galleries in the city – first VAG and now NGMA. “We fought the privatisation of VAG successfully. We will fight for NGMA as well. Amol Palekar's statements have encouraged us to resist it and we will be meeting soon,” the artist said, adding their boycott will continue till NGMA rolls back the entry fee.

When Amol Palekar took objection to the advisory committee at NGMA centres – Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi – being disbanded, his speech was reportedly cut short leading to a row. The advisory committee comprising artists help the bureaucratic administration curate exhibitions and events.

Artists argue that the move to disband the advisory committee will ‘bureaucratise’ exhibitions.

“The last advisory committee, of which I was a member, was dissolved in November 2018 after completion of its three-year tenure,” said senior artist C. Krishna Setty, who demanded that the government immediately reconstitute an advisory committee with reputed visual artists.

The Ministry of Culture, which has jurisdiction over the NGMA, issued a clarification on Sunday stating: “The committees are in the process of being reconstituted.”

Senior artist S.G. Vasudev argued that the government should immediately constitute a good advisory committee with reputed experts. “The committee, unlike in the past, must have visual artists, especially contemporary artists. It cannot be filled with artists from unrelated fields like dance and music. Moreover, the government should not make traditional artists members at NGMA, a gallery for modern art,” he said.

He differs with other artists over entry fee. “Most art galleries have an entry fee. The administration must have made this decision after consultation with the artists, and not unilaterally,” he said.

Nazneen Banu, Director, NGMA, Bengaluru was unavailable for comment. A senior official on the curating team of the centre told The Hindu that entry fee is not a new move. “Earlier, there was an entry fee only at the museum, which has now been moved to the gate,” he said.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 4:42:23 PM |

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