Tuesday, January 30, 2001,
Chandigarh, India



Art exhibition

This has reference to "Content, context and chaos" by B.N. Goswamy (Tribune, Jan 17). It is not surprising that Prof Goswamy has raised the issue of the way certain works from the museum’s collection have been displayed in the exhibition. The aim of these displays is to provoke a response, to force the audience to question the nature of any and all museum displays. But every care has been taken to ensure that the art works are not damaged in any way. Where paintings have been hung one on top of the other, their reverse sides have been lined with foam rubber so that they do not touch the surface of the painting underneath. Where the museum building has been slightly manipulated to accommodate the art, our budget for this exhibition will accommodate restoration of the museum to its original condition.

But I must join issues with the view that much of the exhibition’s installation seems ‘‘arbitrary’’ and in the spirit of a ‘‘free-for-all’’. Had the critic taken time to speak to the artists (all of whom were present) he would have discovered that each and every decision was thoughtful and informed. Perhaps he knows that a discipline known as Chaos Theory has been widely used by artists and thinkers alike.


When I was invited to curate an exhibition for the Museum of Fine Arts, I decided that the approach should be of international standards. I have been questioned by some if India is prepared for such an exhibition and my answer is that I did not have to import artists from abroad. In fact, too much of cultural practice in Indian institutions today is unnecessarily cautious, timid and just plain lazy. My colleagues and I believe that the primary role of contemporary art is to question the definition of art itself and in turn to question the institutions of art history and the museum by which art is defined. Exhibition projects such as ours have been held in museum such as The J.Paul Getty in Los Angeles and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, so why not in India? Should avant-garde culture be kept secluded in the big cities of Mumbai and New Delhi? And where better to explore the premise of the museum as laboratory, a site for creative exploration, than in one that is part of a university campus? The writer questions if our approach towards the works of art on display is responsible. I ask if a museum which does not engage its community and a department of fine arts which does not challenge its students to think expansively and creatively are acting responsibly?

Peter A. Nagy,
New Delhi

Act of contempt: Dr B.N. Goswamy has rightly expressed his concern over the manner in which the original works of art from the Panjab University’s Museum of Fine Arts have been treated by the American artist-curator, Peter Nagy, and six Delhi-based Indian artists. One wonders how the Panjab University authorities gave permission to such an act of contempt. It is also strange that all this ‘tamasha’ took place in the presence of the learned faculty of the University's Department of Fine Arts.

Prem Singh,

Controlling the growing numbers

This has reference to the article "Problems of growing numbers" by J. L. Gupta (Tribune, January 9). The problem is well known. Many methods have been tried but none seems to have succeeded.

From 33 crore at the time of Partition 53 years ago, we have grown to a staggering 100 crore.

The writer suggests that the services of individuals and certain organisations should be utilised to promote family planning measures. In this materialistic era, individuals are too busy with their day-to-day business. Organisations like the Rotary and Lions Clubs also comprise members who are busy with their own professions. They are left with hardly any time to spare for other serious duties.

Family planning campaign is a full-time job. Therefore, the task should be entrusted to NGOs that have full-time workers. Unfortunately, we have too few such NGOs. The Government should help form more such organisations for this specific purpose alone. Members of these organisations should be imparted appropriate training in the art of motivating the targeted population to achieve positive results without coercion.

Wg Cdr C.L. Sehgal (retd),

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