300 artists come together to save Venkatappa Gallery

TNN | Mar 7, 2016, 01.23 AM IST

BENGALURU: The serene surroundings of Venkatappa Art Gallery (VAG) on Kasturba Road, which has housed some of the country’s best artworks, turned into a hub of activity on Sunday morning. More than 300 artists came together to form a human chain against the government’s memorandum of understanding (MoU) that allows a private enterprise to adopt the gallery. The government has signed the MoU with Tasveer Foundation.

While many senior artists fondly remembered how the gallery launched their career, youngsters rued that they wouldn’t have a platform to showcase their work if government allows private players.

The artists formed a human chain around the heritage building and raised slogans in unison.

“We have gathered in a symbolic human chain to express our solidarity against the government’s decision to privatize our only art gallery. This is the only democratic space in the entire state. We want to fight for its freedom as well as that of the community’s,” said Alaka Rao, an artist and one of the organizers of the protest. “Instead of creating more public spaces for artists, the government is taking away the only space we have,” he added.

“There are more than 70 art schools across the state but only one government-funded gallery. It’s grave injustice to the art community; lack of funds is a lame excuse. Why can’t they identify good artists who can lead activities here and let the galley thrive?” asked Praveen Settigere, a publishing professional whose wife is a water colourist.

Many students from different art schools also joined the protest. “As a student, this would be the place for me to showcase my work when I finish my studies. The gallery is much more affordable and approachable than private galleries who don’t let us in easily,” said Indumathi Swamy, a final year masters student in sculptures.

Christoph Storz, a Swiss artist, held hands with his Indian counterparts as they moved around the building. “I have lived here for over 20 years and have seen how important the gallery is. The government has failed to understand what these artists need and, as a result, is giving up this place to someone who is not competent to take charge of a gallery like the VAG.” said Christoph Storz, 64.

For the veterans, getting the government to build the art gallery in the 80s was in itself a struggle. Though the foundation stone was laid, work didn’t progress for months, forcing artists to take to the streets. “This is the only lung space for artists. If this is also taken over then we won’t have an affordable space to showcase our talent. This is exactly why we are so passionate about this fight. We don’t understand why the government is unmoved despite our continued struggle to save this space,” said Sridhar Comaravalli, 56, a freelance cartoonist.

 

Participants at the meet decided to stand united in this fight against privatization of the gallery and continue with the campaign till the government backs out.

 

Pics with Chethan

 

Filed by: Aditi/Deepika

 

Cleared by: Rohith