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Artists criticize inadequate infrastructure for arts in India

Zubin Mehta

Participants like Zubin Mehta, Homi Bhabha, Anjolie Ela Menon, Dayanita Singh, Anish Kapoor and Vikram Seth condemned the lack of inadequacy for arts at various spaces in the country at NDTV Solutions Summit

Zubin MehtaNew Delhi: While India-born artists like Anish Kapoor and Zubin Mehta have found fame on the world stage and India is dreaming to be a ‘soft power’, the country itself lags in infrastructure and state funding for arts, according to prominent personalities from the field.

Music maestro conductor Zubin Mehta, who fulfilled his lifelong dream of playing in Kashmir in September this year, called it “a disgrace” for the  unavailability of concert hall in Delhi or Kolkata while the same was not the case in countries like China, Japan or Korea.

Mehta was participating in a discussion at the NDTV Solutions Summit, which talked about ways to “reestablish the primacy of art, music and culture in the country”.

Cultural theorist Homi Bhabha said, “If you want be a soft power, it is not a cuddly thing. You have got to have the infrastructure,” said Bhabha.

He emphasized on the need to invest in a public-private model to build infrastructure for the arts like museums and galleries in India.

Mumbai-born British artist Anish Kapoor, whose works are exhibited in galleries across the world, agreed with Mehta. “I think institutionally, we are very poor.”

Mentioning the identity of the artist on the basis of nationality, Kapoor who showcased a major retrospective at the National Gallery of Modern Arts in Delhi and Mumbai in 2010, said, “In today’s art world, I think being labeled on the basis of nationality is a stigma.”

“Artists are born they are not made. It is not Indianness that defines us as artists,” said Kapoor. He said artists from India had come out of the phase they were in after Independence where they were concerned about “making something Indian.”

Composer Zubin Mehta said the nature of his music does not permit him the element of Indianess into it.

“Dil hindustan ka he (my heart is for India). However the music I interpret is written by Europeans and I can’t inject anything Indian in it, except the yoga that I do as exercises for breathing,” said Mehta, evoking smiles from audience.

“My Indian part does not enter my spirituality on stage,” said the composer who said they were trying to build a school for music in Mumbai.

“Today if you want to study western music you will have to leave and spend some time outside the country.”

Photographer Dayanita Singh, who represented Germany at the Venice Biennale this year, said she was “quite amazed” that India did not have a representation at the prestigious global art event.

“It is very sad that India did not get its act together,” said the artist who pointed out “a lack of an arts council” in the country.

Artist Anjolie Ela Menon, who was in the audience, raised the point that only 0.5 per cent of the country’s annual budget was spent on culture. “It is really ignored.”

She said that “the greatest gift to us by the republic is the freedom of expression.” She also said that the late painter M F Husain was forced to live outside India because of fundamental groups who “politicized the issue”.

Writer Vikram Seth also said “M F Husain was not able to rest his dying head in his homeland. We must hang our heads in shame.”

Seth referred to Husain, while making the point that “we are happy to be claimed but not happy when we are disclaimed.”


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