We did not want to court controversy with Husain: art summit organiser

August 23rd, 2008 - 9:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 23 (IANS) Amid the kaleidoscope of colours, commerce and pedagogy that mark the ongoing India Art Summit 2008, the country’s first official art fair in the capital, one name was conspicuous by its absence - master artist Maqbool Fida Husain. And the organisers have explained his absence by saying they did not want to invite any controversy.Husain’s works apparently did not match the guidelines and advisories issued by the organisers, Hanmer MS&L, a multi-disciplinary communication and creative services firm hosting the summit.

But the artist understands the situation. In a statement from Dubai Friday, he said there were 2,500 cases pending against him in various courts across the country and he empathised with the decision of the organisers.

The summit organisers also tried to set the record straight.

“As you know the summit is the first of its kind in the country. It was our obligation to ensure that all the participants and visitors had a very good experience. Primarily, the fair was devoted to promoting contemporary art by younger artists. We had issued certain basic guidelines and advisories to the galleries,” Hanmer MS&L managing director Sunil Gautam told IANS.

He said he wanted the caches of works to be tightly curated. “I wanted every frame to match the walls and told the galleries not to bring in works that would court controversy,” said Gautam, whose personal collection features prints by Husain.

“We as organisers have the highest regard and huge respect for the legend M.F. Husain. The artist himself understands the situation and it is an indirect way of Husain blessing the event. He knows our problems - this is public space and we are exhibiting works worth crores of rupees. I could not expose the show to any kind of risk. It was my duty to safeguard everyone’s interest,” Gautam said.

The culture ministry had issued an official statement Thursday night objecting to Husain’s exclusion from the summit.

Husain’s works have been left out of the ambit of the fair, but that does not mean he is out of the country’s art circuit. A simultaneous show of his works by Sahmat, a cultural organisation, in the capital is making up for his absence from the summit.

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