Artists slam Shahidul Alam’s articles

Cultural Correspondent | Published: 17:20, Nov 06,2016

Bangladesh National Museum

A display of Zainul Abedin’s works at Bangladesh National Museum. — Courtesy: Tapash Paul

A platform for artists has slammed articles by Drik and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute founder Shahidul Alam published in New Age and Banik Barta, saying they were surprised by Shahidul’s judgmental comments on the artists and art critics made out of context. 

In a statement issued on Sunday by Bangladesh Charushilpi Sangsad, it was alleged that in both the articles – ‘Breaking out of the white cube’ (New Age) and ‘Sada Deyale Jhulano Theke Beriye Asa’ (Banik Barta) – Shahidul had made ‘derogative remarks’ on the Faculty of Fine Arts of Dhaka University. 

Insulting the faculty, one of the centres of cultural movements in the country, is tantamount to abusing the artist community in general since the institute had created many famous artists, the statement read.

Both the articles were published on October 31.

In their statement, the artists also urged Shahidul Alam to withdraw his comments and apologise unconditionally.

They also questioned the display quality of the recently reopened Gallery 35 of Bangladesh National Museum as Zainul Gallery, which was curated by Drik’s manager ASM Rezaur Rahman.  

In his articles, Shahidul had praised the display of Gallery 35 located on the second floor of the museum, which was opened on October 29.

However, the artists said they believe the display was rather ‘childish’ and amounted to destruction of the unique beauty of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin’s works – questioning the rationale behind outsourcing the curative work to Drik.

In this regard, Bangladesh National Museum director general Faizul Latif Chowdhury told New Age that the issues of outsourcing and the gallery’s display quality would be discussed at a board meeting on Wednesday.

When asked for comments on the controversy, Shahidul Alam issued a written statement in which he said he is ‘in complete agreement’ with the BCS regarding the status of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin and ‘has the greatest respect for him as an artist.’

‘I also have great expectations of the Charukala Institute (Institute of Fine Arts), as I am sure all other Bangladeshi artists do. It is precisely because of my respect for Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin and what he stood for, and my high expectations of our premier art institution which he founded, that I expressed my opinion.

‘I would be happy to engage with the BCS directly regarding the matter, and assure you and others that the article was intended neither to be disrespectful, nor derogatory, but with a genuine desire to see Charukala Institute attain its full potential. Debates and critical analysis are essential for intellectual growth and I would welcome such an opportunity with my peers,’ he added.

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