Three years after his passing away at the age of 95 in London, Maqbool Fida Husain continues to make news.
Lately, a large canvas by M F Husain depicting Lord Ganesha, was removed from the lobby of Mumbai’s swishy J W Marriott Hotel at Juhu. The canvas was described as the piece de resistance by art critics. It was part of the paintings on display in the hotel’s lobby which is hosting Manifestations X1 in collaboration with DAG, or the upscale Delhi Art Gallery.
Among the 75 outstanding canvases, there are works by master artists Ram Kumar, S H Raza, F N Souza, Krishen Khanna and K H Ara. The Ganesha painting by Husain occupied pride of place in the lobby besides being printed on the cover for the catalogue dedicated to the show.
All seemed well, till objections were raised by some visitors to the hotel. To ensure a peaceful ambience, the hotel’s management and DAG apparently came on the same page. Remove the artwork!
Paradoxically, the many paintings of Lord Ganesha by Husain, are considered lucky and auspicious by its collectors. Even the limited prints of Ganesha sell at premium prices, and are coveted particularly by industrialists in New Delhi.
In the course of an interview once, Husain had narrated that a business tycoon in the capital had sold off his Ganesha canvas, and subsequently faced a drastic reversal of fortunes. He pleaded with the artist, often described as the Picasso of India, to paint him another portrait of Lord Ganesha, and presto, the tycoon was back at the top of his trade.
Of course, this story is apocryphal. Husain would say, “I don’t believe in luck at all. Neither am I superstitious. But yes, I felt good when that business tycoon was grateful. He told me that he would never ever sell any of my paintings and would preserve all of them in his collection. Few collectors actually say thank you.”
The nature of the objections to the Lord Ganesha canvas in the Marriott lobby aren’t forthcoming. It would seem that before the objections escalated, the painting was obliterated from the public eye.
Husain would have shrugged his shoulders stoically to this kind of a ‘ban’ perhaps.
The snow-haired barefoot artist would long for a morning chai at the Kayani Irani café on Dhobi Talao, lunch at Taj Mahal Hotel’s Golden Dragon, or a saunter into the Pundole art gallery at Fort. He missed his best friend, Bal Chhabda, tremendously. Chhabda, who was bedridden, passed away two years after Husain.
M F Husain never returned home because there were multiple cases against him. The central government didn’t offer him protection or a safe landing on Indian soil. “At my age, I cannot suffer the humiliation of being arrested,” the Padma Bhushan awardee would state. “I cannot see myself spending even one hour behind prison bars.”
From all accounts, film festivals in Mumbai are hesitant to screen his feature films Gaja Gamini or Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities, fearing protests which could turn violent. Following his death, a Mumbai film festival chief received an email threatening protests if any of the artist’s film was programmed. Consequently, the tribute to Husain was paid, but on an extremely low-key.
The Marriott lobby couldn’t even do that. Because from the crowd of artworks on display, Husain’s signature would have stood out.
Follow Khalid Mohamed at @Jhajhajha on Twitter
Content Copyright: The responsibility and the sole ownership of the content is of the author who has contributed the content to this blog as a friendly gesture. Please don’t copy-paste matter from this blog. To contact the writer, please visit his author page HERE.
Did the patrons have a problem with the painting or the painter ?
Very sad to see how we exiled such a great artist and are banning his works. He did not deserve this. It is a heartbreaking story really. Thanks for reminding us.