The Venkatappa Art Gallery (VAG) is in the eye of a controversy over the shifting of rare drawings and paintings of K K Hebbar to accommodate rare paintings those of the world famous painter Nicholas Roerich.
The VAG staff has banned entry to the Hebbar section where Roerich’s paintings have now been kept. The decision has not gone down well with the Hebbar Art Foundation (HAF), which has decided to take legal recourse.
“It’s a grave injustice. They were not even courteous to take the HAF’s permission before keeping the Roerich’s paintings in Hebbar’s section. It was HAF which spent huge money in the recent past and renovated the Hebbar section. We will wait for some more time before taking legal action,” Hebbar's daughter Rekha Hebbar said.
Rekha visited the VAG along with Puttur Assistant Commissioner Prasanna Kumar and artists—Mohan Sona and Sanjay Dutt on March 17 and was shocked to find her father’s art works dumped in a locked room. “I made several vain attempts to ascertain the reason as neither the VAG staff nor the Archeological Department gave me convincing answers,” she said.
Rekha wrote to the Commissioner of Archaeological Department V S Vastrad on March 23 seeking immediate exhibition of Hebbar's art works. She demanded Vastrad to return her father’s paintings and drawings if he was unable to do so.
Realising the sensitivity of the matter, Vastrad has reportedly sought a detailed report from the Gallery curator, sources in the VAG told Deccan Herald.
Hebbar donated 66 of his rare paintings and drawings to VAG in 1994 and the Gallery management exhibited them on the second floor by launching the Hebbar section. The HAF decided to organise exhibition of his paintings in major cities such as Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai to commemorate Hebbar's birth centenary year 2011-12. The Foundation obtained the art works on rent for a period of six months for the purpose.
The Roerich Estate Board (REB) was established a few years ago to preserve the rare paintings of Roerich. A KAS officer has been appointed as chief executive officers to monitor the affairs at the Roerich Estate at Tataguni.
The REB requested the VAG management for some space to preserve the paintings as there was no safe place in the estate. The REB planned to shift the art works from VAG once the proposed museum at a 25-acre plot is ready.
The REB requested the VAG for some space at a time when the HAF had taken away Hebbar’s art works for the exhibition.
The HAF returned the art works after the exhibition in April 2012, but the REB sought more time to shift the Roerich’s, the VAG staff pointed out.
“We pleaded with the REB to shift the paintings, but the office-bearers clarified they had kept the paintings after obtaining permission from the chief secretary. It’s more than a year since they have kept the art works here. However, the REB recently assured that the paintings would be shifted in a couple of months, the VAG staff said.
Noted artist S G Vasudev said the VAG should have consulted the HAF before keeping Roerich’s paintings in Hebbar’s section, while another artist M S Murthy said the government should constitute a team of five artists to resolve the issue.