Wednesday, 16 February 2011

New protection for public art in India?

The Times of India reports that the Indian government is seeking to enact new legislation which will protect works of art in public places.

The new law is timely coming just a month after a number of paintings India artist in exile M F Husain, which were on public display at the India Art Summit, had to be removed following calls and emails threatening to vandalise the works if they continued to be displayed at the Summit. Although Husain’s painting were eventually remounted, there have also been other instances of actual vandalism of art works in India dating further back.
India’s culture minister Kumari Selja has backed the new law. As the Times of India reports:
Speaking at a book release function, Selja said, “Protection of art that is put up in public places is a sensitive issue and we need to address this. We have all heard of instances where exquisite pieces of art that were put up in public places were damaged, not to speak of instances where such pieces are subjected to neglect and indifferences."

Selja said the role of civil society is important in this regard. It must take pride in the establishment of art in public places, and to assume the responsibility of safeguarding it.
Selja said bringing art closer to the people is a big challenge. "Art is not something that can be confined to museums and galleries, nor is it a preserve of the elite," she said.

Selja lamented the fact that despite the policy that 2% of the cost of all building projects will be provided for executing works of art, not much art has been created in public places. She said organizations such as Delhi Urban Arts Commission and municipal bodies have the responsibility to ensure and implement these guidelines. Also, other institutions associated with building activity have to take the initiative, she said.
Given India’s rich cultural and artistic heritage, hopefully, the rest of the Indian government is similarly supportive and, recognising the need for the law, does not delay in bringing the new legislation into force.

One of MF Husein's paintings that was threatened at the Art Summit.

Source: Times of India 12 February 2011

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