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Coolassprov MC
11-02-06, 14:05

Indian artist apologizes, withdraws nude 'India' artwork
Last Updated Thu, 09 Feb 2006 14:55:13 EST
CBC Arts
Protests have forced a prominent Indian artist to apologize for his nude depiction of "Mother India" and the artwork has been withdrawn from a charity auction.

Maqbool Fida Husain, one of India's best known contemporary artists, issued an apology Wednesday for his work Bharath Mata (Mother India).

In the disputed painting, the 90-year-old Husain re-interpreted the familiar figure of "Mother India" as a naked woman with the names of Indian states scrawled across her body.

The piece had been set for a charity auction to benefit the victims of last year's massive South Asian earthquake, which devastated the Kashmir region. The work had held a reserve price of 700,000 rupees (about $18,000).

"There have been protests about the painting. We contacted the artist and he didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings," Sharan Apparao, head of auction house Apparaoart, said Wednesday.

"Of course we're unhappy but sometimes you have to do things like this," she said, adding that she had received many phone calls demanding that the work be withdrawn from sale.

Several nationalist groups had vocally protested against Husain's work, which had been used in an advertisement for the auction. The groups lodged a police complaint, saying Bharath Mata "offends not only Hindus but Indians at large."

Husain's work has drawn criticism from conservative Hindu groups before.

A decade ago, the celebrated Muslim artist produced a series of paintings depicting Hindu goddesses in the nude. The works attracted violent outrage and an angry mob ransacked his home in Mumbai.

However, his work has also been defended by politicians, progressive Hindus and those in the art community, who have pointed out the presence of nude sculptures and imagery in ancient Indian art. Supporters have argued that while Husain may often depict nudes, his work is not vulgar.

As well, Husain's art continues to be sought by collectors: in 2004, he struck a deal with a wealthy art patron to provide 100 paintings for one billion rupees (nearly $26 million).