Art fraternity's unique gift

Tribute to Husain

Art fraternity's unique gift

 It was also, as SAHMAT shared, “to demonstrate that the art community in India respects M F Husain and his creativity and is opposed to the communal interpretation of his work.”

Husain aficionados had the opportunity to see some of M F Husain’s films. While many of us may be familiar with the more recent feature films like Gaj Gamini and Meenaxi - a Tale of Three Cities, some looked forward to his earlier work from as far back as the 1960s. Feature film and documentary director K Bikram Singh, who has authored a book titled Maqbool Fida Husain published in October 2008, spoke on the man. “All of us, wherever we are in Indian art, are there because of Husain. I’m going there specially to see the film, Through the Eyes of a Painter and to hear the lecture on Husain by K Bikram Singh,” said Delhi gallerist Dolly Narang. A treat, indeed, since Husain himself billed the work as, “The best book on my work so far.”

Invitations went out to several artists to help SAHMAT put together a unique birthday gift for Husain: Either by giving a work of theirs or sending a visual of one of their existing works which was then compiled into a book that was released on the 17th. Husain was handed over a facsimile copy of the book at a special function organized for him in New York.

The original art works that were sent were exhibited at the Husain gallery. In a coincidence, till the day before the exhibition, SAHMAT had received 94 works of art while more were expected. While several of the works were from established artists, the new generation participated with gusto. There were many paintings from students of Delhi College of Art and from Jamia Milia Islamia.

SAHMAT was also keen to get the ripple effect going. They called upon galleries around the world to celebrate the week with works of Husain. “We feel it is our duty to give our own artistic tribute to him as the warmly respected father-figure of Indian art.”
This is not the first time that SAHMAT has raised a toast to Husain. Two years ago, they held the Husain Mela on his birthday with Husain joining his birthday guests on a web chat from London.

So, what inspired this year’s celebrations? Says Ram Rahman of SAHMAT, “Since he is in exile, we came up with this idea of artists putting together a special birthday present for him as a work of art. It is not for sale.” Artists were given the option of gifting the work to Husain or sending a digital image of the art work for the book.” According to Ram Rahman, Anjolie Ela Menon wanted to give her painting to Husain. So did several other artists like Shobha Broota and Vivan Sundaram. Some, like Ram, gave him old family photographs with Husain in the frame. Meera Nair also presented him a photograph.
Says Artist Paramjit Singh, whose work has been featured in the book, “I am a landscape painter so I chose to send SAHMAT a print of a black and white nature drawing for the book to commemorate Husain.” Arpita Singh also sent in a drawing. “This was just to join hands with one of most important artists of contemporary India, a man who has been a forbearer of a lot of movements.” As Paramjit Singh sees it, Husain has been one of several important contemporary artists who have positively impacted many generations of Indian artists.

Contemporary Indian art has taken the bow on the world auction stage. That makes such occasions all the more significant, believes Narang. “It is an occasion to felicitate the master painter who has taken Indian art to the position it is today. In the current situation when he is not able to come back into the country, it is important that the art community come forward expressing solidarity with him. It is also important to keep alive the message on what led to Husain’s self-imposed exile and not to forget him in a milieu when art is doing well,” she says.

It is more than 20 years since 34-year-old playwright-poet and political activist Safdar Hashmi was fatally attacked in Sahibabad, near Delhi, while performing a street play. SAHMAT and Artists Against Communalism are convinced that art can bridge communal fissures since “all creative and intellectual endeavour in India has been exemplary in upholding values of secularism and cultural pluralism.”

Occasions such as these are reason enough to remind the world of India’s “essentially pluralistic and secular” milieu.

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