Nude exhibition at Delhi gallery draws protest

New Delhi: An art exhibition here showcasing a retrospective on modern nude art ran into trouble on Monday with right wing activists forcing it to shut down temporarily and organisers reopening it with police protection.

"The Naked and the Nude" exhibition hosted at the Delhi Art Gallery's exhibition space in south Delhi witnessed a protest by the women's wing of VHP demanding a ban on the show which they said contained "nude and obscene paintings that showed women in very bad light".

Gallery owner Ashish Ananad, however, said the exhibition "explores a popular thematic concept in art" and will continue as planned, with police protection if necessary.

"We have today personally seen all such paintings and called the police to stop it as the nude and obscene paintings show women in very bad light and disrespectfully and are highly objectionable," said Sanjana Chaudhary, state convener of Durga Vahini.

The exhibition, which opened in the city this Saturday and scheduled to continue till March 15 showcases around 250 works by artists like Karamkar, Goud and Ara.

"Delhi Art Gallery current exhibition 'The Naked and the Nude' explores a popular thematic concept in art, that of the human body, and how artists have looked at it historically as a part of their narrative. This exploration has been part of the tradition in the West as well as in India. It forms part of the national heritage and is represented by the country's great masters," said Anand.

"Certain attempts to disrupt the exhibition seem to be a cause for alarm, with regard to India's liberal tradition and freedom of artistic expression guaranteed under the Constitution" he said.

The protesters objected to the "indecent pictures" that showed women as a mere commodity.

"In the light of Delhi's gangrape, this kind of immoral act which depicts women as a sex object should not be allowed," said Chaudhary.

The protesters say they had written to the organisers before the exhibition opened and sent a copy of letter to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, LG Tejendra Khanna, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar, requesting them to get the exhibition banned and arrest its organisers.

Organisers remained defiant saying "the entry to the exhibition is only by invite" and it will "continue as planned".

"We believe in everyone's right to debate, discussion and even protest, provided it is non-abusive, non-violent and non-threatening. The exhibition at the gallery will continue as planned, with, if necessary, the support and safety provided by the state to cultural organisations," said Anand.