Progressive artists and members of the intelligentsia have expressed outrage over the forcible closure earlier this week of an exhibition of gay photographs by noted lensman Sunil Gupta at the Alliance Francaise in the capital as part of the Francophonie Week.
In a signed statement, Ram Rahman, Geeta Kapur, Vivan Sundaram and Indira Chandrasekhar of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust said they were “shocked to learn that the exhibition of photographs by Sunil Gupta was shut down shortly and they wanted the Alliance Francaise to publicly clarify if they were ordered to shut down the exhibition”.
The show which opened March 23 was inaugurated by activist Aruna Roy. The photographs on display included a new series on gay love, Sun City, which was commissioned by the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2011 as part of an exhibition of Indian Contemporary Art.
“Apparently, the Delhi Police arrived at the venue on the complaint of an individual that there were nude images on display. There is nothing obscene about these photographs, many of which have been published in Indian newspapers and art magazines before and are in the public realm,” the statement said.
The organisation wanted the Alliance Francaise to clarify on what ground the exhibition was forced to shut down.
“If major institutions like them cannot stand up against complaints made by a single individual and support the work of an artist they have invited to exhibit, they do not deserve the respect or patronage of the art community. It is specially ironic that a French institution would buckle under so easily. We hope the Alliance will clarify the circumstances which have led to yet another instance of moral policing against the freedom of expression,” the statement said.
A source at the Alliance Francaise said the “police arrived late in the night after some people objected to the show and told us to shut down”.
The exhibition is yet to resume. The director of the Alliance Francaise was not available for comment.
Instances of opposition to alternative, explicit and erotic art are not uncommon in India in the post-modern milieu.
In the 1990s, artist M.F. Husain courted the anger of right wing Hindu groups for his allegedly controversial depiction of Indian deities. The artist was forced to leave the country on a sef-imposed exile to Dubai and acquired Qatari citizenship. Husain passed away last year.