MoU is a sketch for privatising Venkatappa Art Gallery: Artists

Deccan Herald | March 7, 2016

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Around 200 artists under the banner of the Venkatappa Art Gallery (VAG) Forum staged a protest in front of the gallery on Kasturba Road condemning the recent decision of the State government to let a private organisation adopt it.

It was not the usual Sunday morning for artists who gathered at the gallery demanding that the gallery remain under government control. Slogans “(V)We for Venkatappa,”, “Venkatappa Art Gallery is ours,” rent the air as a human chain was formed as a mark of protest.

The Tourism Department recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Tasveer Foundation, which would adopt the gallery.

At a discussion that was organised after the protest, Sheela Gowda, a member of the VAG Forum, said, “The word adoption is being misused in this case. Going by the terms of the MoU, it is a ‘takeover’ by the Tasveer Foundation,” she said, adding that Abhishek Poddar, founder, Tasveer Foundation, was given the liberty to take decisions on what goes on display. “How can a middleman who collects what he fancies with subjective opinion be allowed to adopt the gallery?”

Elaborating on the excerpts of the MoU, senior artists expressed their disagreement. One of them, Pa Sa Kumar, said that contrary to minister R V Deshpande’s assurance at a recent meeting, the MoU grants permission to Tasveer Foundation to renovate the existing building.

Opposing the clause that all curatorial, exhibition and programming decisions would be taken by the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) which is a division of the Tasveer Foundation, its curators and advisory panel, Kumar said, “What about the contribution of artists all these years? If they decide on everything, what are we artists supposed to do?”
While upcoming artists expressed their concern about the possibility of a revision in the gallery fee, the seniors were worried about their democratic freedom being snatched. Praveen S A, an art lover and publisher, said that it was “shameful” that the government cannot maintain just one art gallery.

“If unclean toilets and premises is the reason they want to hand it over to a private company, let them hand over Vidhana Soudha and all government offices as well,” he said.

Alaka Rao, an artist said that the space had been occupied all day long as a mark of protest. Following discussions, Rao said a memorandum would be submitted to the government.