Bengaluru artists protest Karnataka government privatising second oldest museum

India Today | March 8, 2016

For the last two days, renowned Bengaluru artists have been raising slogans against the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government, which is secretly privatising the second oldest museum in Karnataka – Venkatappa Art Gallery.

Established in 1865, the gallery, located in the heart of the city on Kasturba Road, is one of the few independent museums. It hosts a rare collection of art works, archaeological artifacts and jewellery apart from providing exhibition space for artists.

The artists feel that the privatisation of the gallery would shut the doors for budding artists and others who cannot afford the steep rent after renovation. On Sunday, around 500 artists, led by national and inte-rnational award winners, such as, Sheela Gowda, C Chandra-shekar, BKS Varma, PS Kumar, Veakatachalapathi and AM Prasad, took part in a demonstration in front of the gallery. They have formed a forum – Venkatappa Art Gallery (VAG) Forum – to prevent the privatisation. The government has signed a MoU with Tasveer Foundation for renovation and adoption of the gallery. According to Sheela Gowda, the MoU lacks clarity.

“This is a democratic and affordable space for an artist. The MoU does not include any clauses to safeguard the interests of local artists. Going forward, the gallery premises could become unaffordable for the us,” she added. The artists met Karnataka’s Tourism Minister RV Deshpande recently and requested him to reconsider the decision to handover the gallery to Tasveer Foundation. But the government is yet to respond to their plea.

Meanwhile, Tasveer Foundation Founder & Trustee Abhishek Poddar told the media that the adoption of the gallery was in the interests of stakeholders, especially artists. “We are doing something good for the artists and the city. They (artists) are not even open for a debate on the MoU. We are ready to provide space for deserving artists to exhibit their works,” he said

However, the artists feel that once the foundation invests in the renovation of the gallery, it might have its own rules and regulations.