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Moving Air India artifacts to NGMA opposed

Moving Air India artifacts to NGMA opposed
July 11
12:24 2018

NEW DELHI: Amid protests over reports that iconic art and artifact collection at the soon-to-be sold Air India building in south Mumbai will be moved to the National Gallery of Modern Art, the Culture Ministry has clarified it has been requested to conserve and maintain around 4,000 such items.

Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Raghvendra Singh said, “The civil aviation ministry had approached us in the matter and since NGMA (National Gallery of Modern Art) has a mandate to conserve and maintain such art collections and artefacts, they will do so. In the next two months all these artifacts will be brought to Delhi.”

Reacting to criticism of acquiring the items for free, he said upon restoration, the items will be exhibited for public viewing and that was better than selling them to private parties who will only display those in their drawing rooms.

Singh said that he had visited the Air India building at Nariman Point in South Mumbai along with representatives of NGMA to see the collection.

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved a proposal to sell the Air India building at Nariman Point to the Shipping Ministry and the fate of the priceless art collection at the iconic 23-storey building is now under focus.

It collection comprises sculptures, paintings, posters and menu cards for former presidents and prime ministers on their travels. The collection include paintings by legendary artists such as M F Husain, V S Gaitonde, Jatin Das, Anjolie Ela Menon and even an ashtray designed by famed Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

“The entire collection is a memorabilia of historic value for India. Why should they be sold? They should be there for the people,” Singh said.

He said the ministry has constituted a committee along with the aviation ministry and the experts from NGMA who will inventories the entire collection and then bring it to Delhi within the next two months.

Voices of protest rose amid reports that the iconic collection will be moved to NGMA.

“Why should Air India give its valuable artworks free, even to the National Gallery of Modern Art? Why should they not be auctioned? If iconic Air India building can be sold why not paintings? Why free?” tweeted Congress leader Manish Tiwari.

While the worth of the total collection is not known, sources in the Ministry of Culture told PTI that the artworks were in dilapidated condition and needed to be restored immediately.

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien, in a tweet, said, “Why should Air India be gifting away artworks worth millions of rupees for free. Be assured, we will investigate. We will act. We are keeping a close watch.”

A group of Air India unions has also opposed the move.

“Crores worth of taxpayer-owned art to be given away for free! @sureshpprabhu @jayantsinha we are watching your looting and pillaging of our national carrier. You are modern day Mahmud of Ghaznis,” tweeted Air India Joint Forum Against Crony Capture.PTI

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