Artists regret damage to their works installed at public places

Works of art kept in government safe houses are not the only ones facing neglect at the hands of the keepers, those installed at public places seem to share a similar plight.

As reported recently in the media, artist Balan Nambiar had to face the destruction of his creation — a 17-ft-high sculpture weighing almost 900 kg — on the premises of the Kotak Mahindra Bank branch in Bangalore.

Artist Jatin Das’s “Flight of Steel” at the Bhilai Steel Plant was >taken down, stripped and relocated in shades of yellow and blue at the Bhilai zoo in 2012. More recently, he got to know that one of his paintings at the Taj hotel in Mumbai was destroyed in the 26/11 terror attack. The artist wasn’t informed by the hotel authorities. “I made a call and they [hotel authorities] sent a mail informing me about how the painting had been destroyed,” said Mr. Das.

These two artists are not alone. “Mohinder Puri’s ceramic mural at Priya Cinema in New Delhi was pulled down when the cinema hall became PVR. Satish Gujral’s ceramic mural was removed from Odeon cinema and, of course, the landmark case of Amarnath Sehgal’s mural at Vigyan Bhavan, which was pulled down without the consent of the artist, are some of the instances where artworks installed at public places were destroyed,” said Mr. Das, who has moved the court against the neglect of his artwork.

Works of arts by eminent Indian artists are >facing neglect at the government safe house — Lalit Kala Akademi — too. As reported by The Hindu, artists have sought an explanation on the “disappearance of paintings and destruction of some of the artworks” in the safe keep of the Akademi.

Plans legal action

Mr. Nambiar said he was shocked at the attitude of the Kotak Mahindra bank officials after his sculpture was destroyed and is contemplating legal action. His work in steel is valued at Rs. 40 lakh. Asked about the sculpture, a bank official said, “We are concerned about what happened, but we really don’t know what to say.”

This is not the first time that Mr. Nambiar has faced destruction of his artwork. Years ago, a steel sculpture on granite installed at a traffic island in Bangalore was razed down by the traffic police. Mr. Nambiar said his work died a “custodial death.”

Proposals are said to be lying with the Ministry of Culture on the need for a separate law to protect the works of artists in public spaces.

In the Amarnath Sehgal vs Union of India case, the court held in 2005 that the artist has a right to assert authorship in a work, and that includes a right to object to distortion, mutilation or modification. Mr. Sehgal had to seek recourse to the Copyright Law. It is this law which holds hope for artists whose works are installed at public places.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 5:40:24 AM |

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