Artists protest on Sunday and vow to keep fighting till govt backs down on Venkatappa’s privatisation
The struggle for autonomy for Venkatappa Art Gallery, which was born out of protest in 1970, seems to have come full circle with artists from all over the state joining hands against the gallery’s transfer into private hands.
Venkatappa Art Gallery Forum, comprising artists, curators, art managers, collectors and writers staged a protest on Sunday appealing to minister for tourism and industries, RV Deshpande to scrap the MoU signed between the government and Tasveer Foundation.
Alka Rao, an artist from Bengaluru, said, “The idea of creating a gallery germinated after the paintings of K Venkatappa were handed over to the state after his death in 1965. The then Mysore State decided to build an art gallery and a foundation stone was laid in 1966.” However, it was only in 1970, with the efforts of GS Shenoy, that the construction of the current building was expedited by the state government. Protesting against the lack of art galleries in a state with a rich artistic heritage, Shenoy started exhibiting his paintings on pavements in front of the Bible Society of India. That led to the construction of Venkatappa Art Gallery.
Artist Balan Nambiar, said, “It is a sorry sight to see that the government is trying to hand over its only public art gallery to a private foundation..”
The government, for its part, has claimed that the adoption of the art gallery by the Tasveer Foundation is being facilitated under Corporate Social Responsibility.
However, Gurunandan Molahalli, Chief Finance Officer with Wipro, who is supporting the artists’ cause, said, “This kind of adaptation need not be facilitated under CSR guidelines, and the step taken by the government, under the pretext of promoting tourism, behind the veil of CSR, is just an eyewash.”
Contentious points in the MoU
The MoU is signed between Department of Archaeology as the first party, MAP a division of Tasveer Art Foundation as second party and Department of Tourism as third party.
Concern: The department of Kannada art and culture, the portfolio of which is with the Chief Minister and deals with artists in the state is nowhere mentioned in the MoU.
Clause 2.0: in the MoU reads that the Tasveer Foundation will take up cause of adoption of the Venketappa Art Gallery as a tourist destination, as a corporate social responsibility.
Concern: It is not about development or promotion of art and culture and at the same time under the Company’s Act, CSR activity can be done without complete adoption of the gallery by putting in voluntary donations.
Clause 2.4: Prior to the commencement of work, the destination shall be vacant and free of any encumbrance. The second party shall be furnished with a complete inventory and condition report of existing artworks to be kept at the destination along with and condition of all said equipment at the destination.