Artists burn paintings to protest ‘vandalisation’ of art gallery

Nayeem Rather

Srinagar: Scores of artists Thursday burnt their artwork to protest the vandalisation of Kashmir’s only art gallery ‘Gallerie One’ by the officials of tourism department on February 23.
Led by the founder of ‘Gallerie one’ Syed Mujtaba Rizvi, the artists assembled here at the Press Enclave and torched many of their artworks as a mark of protest.
The artists demanded strong action against the officials involved in the alleged vandalization.
“We want that our damages should be compensated. It is sad and disgusting that the Tourism officials behaved like goons and destroyed the artwork worth crores of rupees,” Syed Mujtaba told Kashmir Reader.
“This shows unaccountability and impunity these officials enjoy,” he added.
According to Mujtaba, the officials from Tourism department barged into the art gallery on February 23 and vandalized artwork worth crores of rupees.
“They didn’t serve a legal notice but with a sole purpose to vandalize the gallery,” he said.
He said that the artworks confiscated by the Tourism department should be returned back to the art gallery.
He said that the authorization letter from the Tourism department issued November 22 last year nowhere mentions that the contract was time bound as was claimed by the department.
“As per the letter, our contract was not time bound,” Mujtaba said.
“Even if the tourism department wanted us to vacate the property, they should have given us a legal notice. But they just came and vandalized the whole gallery” he added.
Pertinently the then tourism director Talat Parvez had said that the art Gallery “will be integral part of Tourism Reception Centre.”
The artists claim that the officials have locked down the art gallery and were not allowing members of Gallerie One to enter the building. “We want to look at the damages and want to shift the artworks out of the building. But the officials are not allowing us to enter the building” Mujtaba said.
The art gallery, first of its kind, was thrown open on January 12 for the public. As per estimates it houses the artworks worth Rs 7 crore.
It showcased works like paintings, photographs from artists all over the world and from within the state.