Maya with Pink Elephant by Maqbool Fida Husain
The row escalated earlier in the week when activists petitioned Christie’s, the world’s best known and largest arts business and auction house, not to oversee transactions of any of Husain’s work.Christie’s rejected the demand, with spokesperson Sara Fox saying, “Art and culture embraces multiple interpretations and re-interpretations of religious and ethnic symbols that are often highly individual expressions.”Narain Kataria, president of the IAIF, told rediff.com, “Husain is a Muslim who was born in India, and he knows the significance of what he’s done. His hatred for Hindus is obvious in his actions and vulgar art, if you can call it art. It’s borderline pornography, not anything a normal person would consider art. By painting vulgar, sexual images of our great goddesses like Durgadevi, Lakshmi, and Saraswati, he deliberately insults Hindus’ sentiments. It’s as if he’s insulted our mothers. Why has he not painted these images of Christ? Of Mary? Why is he running from India? It’s obvious he is a criminal and a coward.”
New York: Husain’s paintings auctioned amid protests
The Christie’s auction of Maqbool Fida Husain’s works proceeded on Thursday amid protests and demonstrations outside it’s doors. Protesters were vehemently disputing the sale of works by India’s most notorious artist. MF Husain, exiled from India, came under fire for his depictions of Hindu deities in the nude – and action that has enraged Hindu extremists, leading to his exile, cases of obscenity and the seizing of his assets.
The Auction proceeded after letters of protest and finally a full protest during the auction itself. The contested works sold despite the protest with one, Battle of Ganga and Jamuna, selling for 1.4 Million.
What saddens me about these protests is that they seem to be becoming a Hindus versus Muslims argument. if you read the above quotes one of the key factors that all the extremists can agree on is that he’s a Muslim and therefore hates Hindus and is purposely trying to inflame them. now, my understanding is that not only have Hindus had in the past a greater tolerance for nudity than they do now but that Muslims have always had a greater problem with nudity in general. why is this coming down to religion? especially when one religion is known for it’s long history of nudes and nude art and sculpture and the other considers bare arms to be indecent? I will never understand this war, and I think it is developing into a war. The Hindu extremists responsible for the protest seem to have an exaggerated view of propriety and pornography. MF Husain’s works frequently depict Hindu deities nude, I can see where that can be a source of contention if he displayed them in particularly sexual or pornographic poses, but most of his images are very peaceful, nudity is almost pure in them. Some of his most contentious works seem to me to be no worse than traditional hindu depictions of these same deities. is it in fact because Husain is Muslim that these depictions are forbidden to him or is it because the extremists responsible for denigrating him are trying to change Hinduism from it’s roots? The current news from India, laced with protests and incarcerations for artists, says yes.
There appears to be a division between Hindus however, here is a quote to end on from another Hindu with a different view of Husain’s paintings and the Christie’s Auction.
But inside the auction room, one Hindu man, wearing white and saffron silk kurta pyjama, a collector and purveyor of Husain’s art, termed the protest “a circus and a joke”.
Asked about a Husain’s painting being auctioned, titled ‘The pink elephant and Maya’, which shows a nude Maya on a bed with a pink elephant on her knee, the art-lover said, “It’s a beautiful, thought-provoking piece. I don’t see anything offensive. I’ve been a practising Hindu all my life.”