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Husain is too ‘risky’ for capital fair

New Delhi, July 25: Room for 700 artists, but not even a corner for M.F. Husain.

When the India Art Summit opens next month, the works of the man who has contributed the most to the country’s art business may not be among the exhibits for the second year running.

The Summit, an art fair which faced a lot of criticism for not showing Husain’s works at its exhibition last year, doesn’t want to “risk” an attack by radical elements opposed to the artist’s nude depiction of Hindu goddesses.

“We are expecting about 20,000 people at the event. We cannot risk their security and the safety of the other artists at any cost,” Summit associate director Neha Kirpal said.

Exhibitions featuring works of the 93-year-old artist, who now lives abroad in self-imposed exile, had in the past come under attack from fundamentalists in several states.

Last year, too, when cultural group Sahmat held an exhibition of Husain’s works at India International Centre as a gesture of solidarity after the Summit cried off, some vandals tried to disrupt the show despite the presence of Delhi police personnel.

“It is unfortunate that the face of Indian art has to be kept out for the security of the others involved,” Kirpal said.

The Summit is expecting participation from 700 artists from 11 countries and 18 international galleries.

But Sahmat member and photographer Ram Rahman said the Summit had “one full year” to figure out what to do about security. “This is no excuse. As the organiser, its job is to ensure security. If it can’t, it shouldn’t hold the exhibition at all. Husain is neither banned by the government nor is he a criminal. We cannot allow hoodlums to control our life and business.”

Delhi Art Gallery, which has a large collection of Husain’s works, and Mumbai’s Pundole Gallery are also disappointed.

“I would be very disappointed if I am unable to show Husain’s paintings. I had planned to show five of his early works from the 1950s and 1970s. It’s unfair that an artist who has contributed the most to the Indian art business should be kept out of the Art Summit,” said Ashish Anand of Delhi Art Gallery.

Summit organisers said the could not display Husain’s works unless the government guaranteed complete security for the event.

“While talks with the home ministry have been going on for months now, we are yet to get any commitment. I spoke to Husain saab about this and no one understands this better than him…. He also said the Summit should not take a risk by showing his works,” Kirpal said.

The Summit associate director said Husain had given his blessings for the exhibition and also told the organisers that they could exhibit his books and films to mark his presence.

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