Monday, August 29, 2011

MF Husain reaps posthumous ‘acceptance’ through a plethora of art shows

Source: Wall St Journal

Celebrating Maqbool Fida Husain seems to have become rather trendy for the art community. Apart from a plethora of exhibitions dedicated to the late maverick, the printing press is running overtime to churn out books on him. These include Pradeep Chandra’s MF Husain: A Pictorial Tribute and Barefoot Across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India, an anthology of essays by Yoda Press.

A recent India-Bangladesh exhibition, ‘dedicated’ to Husain at Mumbai’s Museum Art Gallery, appears to be piggy-backing on the dead artist by showcasing 56 artwork that are not even remotely related to Husain. The logic behind this week-long ‘summit’ dedicated to Husain and prominent Bangladeshi artist Mohammad Kibria, is, that the two passed away within two days of each other. However, other exhibitions, which are showcasing Husain’s work, include shows at the Delhi Art Gallery (DAG), Vadhera Art Gallery in Delhi and Pundole Art Gallery in Mumbai.

Given that Husain was living in exile, is it too little too late? “With a phenomenon like him, something like this was bound to happen. He never stopped being celebrated; even when he was in exile. We must ask ourselves if Husain would be proud of the show that is dedicated to him? Would he support the artists clubbed together in the so-called tribute, or would he cringe?” says Dadiba Pundole, owner of the Pundole Art Gallery, that has an old association with Husain. Back in 1960s, the painter had his first solo exhibition here. The Pundoles also had their own tribute to the maestro. “It was a small show that we did for our own satisfaction, more like a ‘selfish’ exhibition,” says Dadiba.

Roshini Vadehra of Vadehra Art Gallery, agrees. “Husain was the only living artist, who was celebrated with a solo at the National Gallery of Modern Art in1993. My father (Arun Vadehra) pursued the Ministry of Culture to host this exhibition with a bit of difficulty, but we are glad we did it while he was alive,” says Vadehra, who is also showcasing works by Husain at their Defence Colony Gallery.

The Delhi Art Gallery is hosting an exhibition at the DLF Emporio. It was at DLF Centre, where Husain began his public art career as a struggling artist. “We had been talking about doing a film and a large exhibition on Husain for 2012. It is a pity that he passed away before we could have the show,” says Kishore Singh, Head of exhibitions and publications, DAG. The show features about 50 works from the1940s and the 2000s, some of which have been sourced from private collectors like Kiran Nadar. DAG is the only gallery to have hosted Husain’s artwork at the India Art Summit this year. The works on display will include the seminal Karachi VI, a self portrait with horses, that speaks of Partition, a brilliant paper work on Gandhi and a bold image of the Indo-China war.

Completing the retrospective are archival photographs from artists like Krishen Khanna, Gopi Gajwani and late photographer Habib Rahman. They will also showcase films made on him and by him. “The fear factor kept people away from having exhibitions, but we entirely believed in his freedom of expression. What can we do if Husain has become a brand,” adds Singh.

Payal Kapoor of Arushi Arts in Greater Kailash, is also hosting what she calls, a tribute with a difference. “I have a Husain horse, which forms the center-piece of the show around which I’ve arranged the works of the Modern Contemporaries. Husain always said that one should encourage new talent,” says Kapoor, whose exhibition features works by Paresh Maity, Arpana Caur, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Roy Thomas, A Balasubramaniam, Jagannath Panda and Riyas Komu. Unfortunately, none of these artists, with an exception of Padamsee, have made work with Husain in mind.

Reacting to the posthumous love being showered on Husain, Kapoor says, “It is sad but true. The psyche of the buyers and collectors is usually driven by the availability of artwork, the quantity of which decreases once an artist passes away.”
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