“Obscene” Sculptures Removed From India’s Chandigarh Sculpture Park

The Kalagram sculpture garden at Chandigarh removed 19 works deemed "offensive"
Photo: Times of India, Virendra Saklani

Prominent artists across India have voiced sharp criticism over a decision to remove 19 artworks from the sculpture park at Kalagram, Chandigarh, the Times of India reports. With hundreds of sculptures by national and international artists, the park is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. The sculpture park’s management has decided to remove the sculptures following a single man’s complaint about their so-called “objectionable” nature.

In March 2014, Chandigarh-based lawyer Arvind Thakur filed a complaint with Chandigarh local court alleging that nude sculptures and others depicting scenes of intimacy were spreading obscenity in a public place. In an effort to avoid controversy, the North Zone Cultural Center (NZCC), which manages the park, decided to relocate the works to their head office in Patiala.

The artists were not informed that their sculptures had been banned. NZCC director Rajinder Gill maintained that changing the site of the artworks was a preemptive necessity. “We wanted to avoid litigation and Thakur had been threatening to sue us in the high court. The works were shifted in the interest of the artists,” he said.

Painter Malkit Singh, vice president of the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi, warned against cultural regression caused by moral policing, saying “Fundamentalist forces are out to gag art […] How will we progress unless we imagine freely?” Others called Thakur’s objections “visual illiteracy,” and criticized the censoring as backward: “The grammar of those sculptures ultimately came from human anatomy,” said artist Jagdeep Jolly. “Tomorrow these mobs can ask to stop study anatomy altogether, will we stop that then?”

However, Delhi-based sculptor Suraj Khajuria, whose work Dog was among those removed, told the TOI it was his prerogative to sculpt what he wanted, and their prerogative to remove it.

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