Aug. 24: The India Art Summit 2008 ended on a sad note here on Sunday as a group of alleged VHP activists ransacked M.F. Husain’s exhibition in New Delhi.
However, the organisers of the art summit were happy that the fair was able to draw huge crowds, transact brisk commerce and thrash out issues facing the Indian art industry.
The incident took place at around 3.30 pm when a group of around 15 people reached the lawns of the Constitution Club, where the exhibition, organised by NGO Sahmat, was going on. "The protesters, shouting slogans and holding placards reading, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai, Jai Shri Ram’, reached the lawns and started targeting Husain’s paintings and the exhibition," said one of the organisers.
"These men came near the paintings and tried to damage them. They were carrying placards with Jai Shri Ram written on them," a visitor said.
Sahmat decided to organise the exhibition after organisers of the ongoing Art Summit decided not to exhibit paintings of the controversial artist. Some policemen reached the spot soon after the incident but the miscreants had managed to escape by then. Describing the attack as a "cowardly act", Mr Rajan said, "The DCP of the area had been informed well in advance about a possible disruption but no security was provided making us an easy target."
Meanwhile, the Indian Art Summit had excluded Husain’s works fearing controversy and trouble. It had issued advisories and guidelines to the galleries to bring non-controversial works, mostly by young contemporary artists to match the theme of the summit.
All the leading art houses and sellers from the country, who were at the fair, missed Husain. "We are all missing the works of Mr Husain. We hope the issue will be solved soon," a visitor said, adding, "It is a very sad thing to have happened after all the support and encouragement from Union tourism and culture minister Ambika Soni".