Floating Cow Installation Causes Furor at Jaipur Art Summit

The artwork was thought to be hanging in an offensive way.

A black and white cow, similar to the type of cow that was portrayed through the installation. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A black and white cow, similar to the type of cow that was portrayed through the installation. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Police in India have apologized after an art installation involving a large floating cow was confiscated as it was deemed religiously offensive.

Bovine Divine (2015) features a cow suspended in the air by a large balloon. Some saw the humorous side of the work but unfortunately others did not.

“This is not art,” local police chief Mahendra Gupta said to reporters, according to the Indian Express. “The way the cow was hanging in the air, it was only sending a negative message.”

The 4-pound Styrofoam cow was created by artist Siddhartha Kararwal, who displayed the work in conjunction with the opening of the Jaipur Art Summit at local arts center Jawahar Kala Kendra. The work was intended to spread awareness about holy cows that die after eating plastic bags left on the streets.

“The message of the installation was harmony between humans and environment,” Kararwal told the Indian Express. “Cows often scavenge for food and end up consuming plastic from the garbage, eventually dying from it. We had read about 10-15 kg of plastic being found in the stomach of deceased cows.”

Despite the fact that the work was intended to support the sacred cows of India—who are allowed to roam wherever they please—many people were offended and demanded the removal of the plastic animal.

“[Police] said many people had approached them saying artists had portrayed ‘our cow’ inappropriately,” explained Kararwal.

The artist and his collaborators then removed the installation, but in the face of increased religious conservatism in India, other local artists protested. Two of the artists involved, Anish Ahluwalia and Chintan Upadhyay, were taken in for police questioning.

An unnamed religious group then reclaimed the artwork. “We had removed the installation and kept it in a store. Yet some members of an unidentified organization arrived at Jawahar Kala Kendra, pulled it out of the room, and worshipped the cow and garlanded it,” said organizer Vida Sagar to the Indian Express.

The work was later seized by police.

The arrests caused uproar in the media as it follows the disbanding of the governing council of Jawahar Kala Kendra after council member Anish Kapoor published a scathing criticism of the current prime minister Narendra Modi in The Guardian.

An apology from the regional police commissioner in Rajasthan has since been issued and the local police chief removed from office.


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