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DEEPANJANA PAL
CULTURE MULCHER

Deepanjana Pal is books editor at DNA

Reign of ignorance & apathy define Indian artistic babudom

Tracey Emin’s My Bed

wo years ago, one of the most well-known art collectors in the world, Charles Saatchi offered Britain's public galleries a gift: £30 million worth of contemporary art by some of the most talented artists of recent times. Saatchi made it very clear that he wasn't expecting anything in return for these works, which include some of the most talked-about pieces of contemporary art by controversial and acclaimed artists from Britain and beyond, like Tracey Emin, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Richard Wilson Grayson Perry and our very own Jitish Kallat. Saatchi also said he would foot the costs of storage, maintenance and restoration. All the government had to do was adopt these works and give them homes in museums and galleries across Britain.

You'd think the British government would snap Saatchi's offer up like a hungry alligator, given the drastic cuts that governmental funding for the arts has had to suffer in recent times. But no! The Arts Council, Government Art Collection and Tate have all said thanks, but no thanks. As ridiculous as this sounds, two years later, there are still no takers for Saatchi's gift in Britain, despite the fact that there's no price tag and the 200 works he's offering include some spectacular art. Consequently, Saatchi is setting up a fund that will manage his collection.

Years ago, someone at an art opening had said to me that their favourite daydream was that Saatchi would donate his collection to the National Gallery of Modern Art and we'd be able to see Saatchi's collection in all its glory, in India, in exchange for a ticket priced at Rs 10. Ever since I read the news that Saatchi's gift had been rejected, I've indulged in daydreams in which India steps in where Britain failed and gives Saatchi's collection a home.

I am aggrieved to report that this bed has clearly been used for immoral purposes and activities, judging from the presence of items like used male contraceptives. In addition, the sheets are dirty and crumpled and there are questionable stains on them

The media is gung-ho, the Indian art community does happy dances and everything seems to be on track. Until, of course, the works have to be installed.

"To:

The Honorable Minister of Culture

New Delhi

Dear Madam,

As per the instructions conveyed by you during our telephone conversation dated 18 August 2012, I have been through the list of artworks offered by Shri Saatchi and I enclose herewith my initial comments.

As detailed by Shri Saatchi, the collection he is generously offering for display at the prestigious NGMA (Mumbai and New Delhi) are all very expensive and many of them are said to have garnered immense critical acclaim over the years. However, I feel there may have been some confusion. We have just opened the container that, according to the list, contains a work of art by Shrimati Tracey Emin and it seems Shri Saatchi has sent us a bed instead.

The bed is sturdy and well-made, as per the expert opinions of the carpenters we have hired at premium rates for the installation of aforementioned art works. However I must, with some trepidation, report that it is not a very respectable bed. I am aggrieved to report that this bed has clearly been used for immoral purposes and activities, judging from the presence of items like used male contraceptives. In addition, the bed sheets are dirty and crumpled and there are questionable stains on them. I have submitted a requisition for fresh bed linen (a copy is attached with this letter), which I hope to receive within 24 hours. Upon its receipt, the linen will be changed immediately.

I have also requested the Ministry of Tourism to loan us a qualified housekeeper to make the bed neatly. A similar request has also been submitted to the Ministry of Health, since hospitals require high-quality bed making. However, while these cosmetic improvements will certainly enhance the appearance of the bed, I would like to put on record that it seems unlikely that, no matter how neatly the bed is made, this item would be suitable for display at the prestigious NGMA.

I would also like to draw attention to the fact that there are suspected blood stains on the bed sheet. Please advise if we should send the sheet to CID or RAW for analysis.

Yours sincerely,

Very Important Person at National Gallery of Modern Art,

Mumbai"

 
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