Archive for January, 2011


Husain’s work removed from India Art Summit

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Four of MF Husain’s paintings were to be shared with the public after many years at the 3rd India Art Summit, the country’s largest art fair. By evening of Day 1, the Delhi Art Gallery was forced to take off the paintings by the organisers. Both parties had received numerous threats by individuals and groups that believe Husain is anti-Hindu and anti-national.

Ashish Anand, Director, Delhi Art Gallery said, “We have received around 20 odd emails from various groups – from Bombay and Pune and so has the India Art Summit. So they are fearing that there could be a stampede and so they are wanting the safety of the people. Even the Police Commissioner told me that it is perfect, like there is no problem, there is enough security at the summit. We are still in touch with the organisers so there is still a possibility that we may be able to show Hussain’s paintings.

Neha Kirpal said, “We have not heard from the government as far as support they may be able to extend to the art fair. I haven’t had any formal note from the government in any of these fronts.”

Controversy that started in 1996 over his depictions of Hindu gods peaked in 2006. The artist not only had various cases against him but was given numerous death threats by right wing groups. Living in exile since 2006 and and now a Qatar national, the artist has not returned.

Arun Vadhera said, “The fact is that he is the captain of the Indian Art and without him the Summit is incomplete.”

Whether it is the gallery, the organisers or the art fraternity, the general sentiment has been one of sadness and helplessness at showcasing India’s biggest star. India is still scared to display his works; can the government help?



A splash of watercolour in a dull month

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On show: A ship Against the Mew Stone, at the entrance to Plymouth Sound (1814). Courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland

We could show Turner’s art all year round – but would the spectacular watercolours then be rendered everyday?

‘WE ARE SO unaccustomed to be remembered in such matters, and receive so few public presents of such magnitude, that we can scarcely realise our claim to recognition in the disposal of the national benefaction.” This is how The Irish Times reported the news of Henry Vaughan’s bequest of 31 Turner watercolours to the National Gallery of Ireland on January 6th, 1900.

Ever since, each January, the watercolours have emerged like flower bulbs from the darkness of storage to bloom gloriously for their one month of public display. They all repay viewing, but the most dramatic piece is A Ship Against the Mew Stone, at the Entrance to Plymouth Sound , painted around 1814, of a galleon in full sail tilting into a stormy green sea with dark blue clouds roaring above it.

This year, for the first time, Vaughan’s specially-made oak cabinet in which they are stored the rest of the year, is also on show. It occupies a central place in the dimly-lit room. The watercolours now on display fit into wooden panels, which in turn slot into racks, all concealed behind doors.

“We try to have a different theme each year, and this year it’s conservation,” explains curator Anne Hodge. “So we thought it would be interesting for people to see the cabinet Vaughan had made for the watercolours.” This year the exhibition is entitled Colour and Light: Caring for Turner’s Watercolours.

The watercolours held in Dublin are but part of the bequest Vaughan made. He also bequeathed 38 to the National Gallery of Scotland, in Edinburgh, and 23 to the National Gallery in London. Hodge outlines the terms of the bequest: that the watercolours were to be displayed in January only; that they were to be shown together; and that the exhibitions were to be free. The custom-made cabinet held at Dublin is apparently the only one of the original three to survive.

Edinburgh, along with Dublin, has kept to the terms of the bequest. London, however – where the Turners are now at the Tate – has long displayed the watercolours all year round. “They were subsumed into their general Turner collection,” says Hodge. “I have to do some more research to see what the terms of their agreement was. Perhaps they had something different.”

Vaughan’s reason for stipulating the watercolours be displayed only in January, when daylight is weakest, was to protect the colours from fading. In 2011, and for many years modern technology has meant the watercolours could be displayed year-round without any danger of damage. So why aren’t they? “We stick to the condition of the will,” Hodge says.

The National Gallery has a copy of Vaughan’s will, plus a handwritten extract transcribed from the will, which was sent to Dublin by his solicitors on New Year’s Day in 1900. It details the numbers of the works bequeathed to the gallery and the conditions of the bequest. (His solicitors had an office in High Holborn at the time, but are no longer in existence.)

“There is a sense of drama to only having them on show once a year. They draw people to the gallery. We see grandparents bringing grandchildren to see what they themselves saw as children, particularly people who live in Dublin.”

It’s early on a weekday morning, yet the print gallery in which the Turners are on show has a very sizeable crowd of people constantly moving through it. What do these visitors think: would they like to see the watercolours on show year-round or do they prefer the fact that they can only be seen in January?

“If they were on show all through the year, we probably wouldn’t come to see them at all,” says Sam Hutchison, who has come specially to see the watercolours.

“It creates an interest in the gallery that wouldn’t usually be there,” agrees his friend Albert Sloane. “It’s a way of drawing attention to the place.”

“I try to come every year. It’s my annual visit,” says Thelma Doran. “I like the fact we can only see them in January. It’s about respecting the terms of the bequest.”

Noel Doyle and Eric Lidwell, who are both art students, have come specifically to see the Turners for the second year running. They have the same response as other visitors when asked if they’d like them to be exhibited all year.

“You could see them all year around, because we can do that kind of thing now, but because they’re only here in January, there’s a heightened interest in them,” says Doyle.

“It makes it more concentrated,” says Lidwell. “From a marketing point of view, and getting feet going through the gallery, it makes sense.”

Dorothy Elliott says she comes every year just to see the Turners, and loves the fact they are on show only once a year. “It’s part of my calendar. It’s easier to find the time to come in January, rather than, say, on a summer’s day when the sun is shining. It reminds me of something I must do, in a dull month where not much is happening.”