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Mughal period was more tolerant of multiculturalism than people today: Bharti Kher

India’s globally-acclaimed contemporary artist Bharti Kher participated at The Luxury Symposium in Delhi, organised by The Luxury League. She told Karan Bhardwaj that the Indian government should come up with encouraging schemes to boost art

Bharti Kher

Bharti Kher at The Luxury Symposium in Delhi

What’s your definition of luxury?
Excellence, scholarship, articulation, unique vision.

As you pointed out during the discussion, India sometimes doesn’t even have a canopy at prestigious platforms. What is holding us back?
Apathy! I feel everyone in this nation is focused on money and how to make it. It seems like money has become a benchmark for success. In ruthless pursuit of a strong economy, we have forgotten about everything else.

Do you think government should be more co-operative?
You need philanthropy and you need people with vision to start things on their own. Unfortunately, it’s very sticky here. We all know that. Bureaucracy is a pain in this country. You will be stopped if you want to do anything. You have 3,000 regulations for something that takes 3 years of clearance. It’s just so difficult. Why don’t we try and float new, encouraging schemes? If they can do SEZs for exporters, then why can’t they think about creating something for arts and culture and its funding? Why do we get international galleries participating at the Indian fairs and exhibits hassled in paper work and fund deposits?

Freedom of speech has become a debate in this country, and all over the globe. What do you make of the present atmosphere?
Fear! I don’t understand what’s going on anywhere. Politically, it’s not just about India but across the world. I feel that there is a strong sense of fear. I don’t really understand what people are afraid of. Why has our sensibility become so fragile when we come from a culture that is so pure? It saddens me. I feel we should go back in time and not forward. We must not look forward always.

Move back, as in?
Mughal period comes to mind when we say back in time… I think they were more accepting of multiculturalism than people today. I find it a bit sad actually, with the way world is moving forward. If we don’t become inclusive, we are heading towards a patriarchal and intolerant society, not here only but all over the world. And I don’t understand know why it is happening. I didn’t foresee it. I thought ours is going to be the generation where history will not be repeated. But we are like the silly human race, doing the same mistakes again and again, like we never want to learn from them.

My desire is to open Indian doors to luxury brands from various countries: Ritu Beri

Bharti Kher

Pavan Varma, Bharti Kher and Sylvie Polette in conversation with Shaili Chopra

Be it a lit fest or an art fair, something just offends people and then it is torn apart. Why are progressive ideas being targetted?
Artists are just asking questions. What’s the big deal in that? I assume nobody is paying attention to what we, 20 or 100 people, are saying or discussing. Okay the number can be 500 when you include an exhibition. But it is definitely not going to change the course of the nation’s GDP. But then all attacks and criticism make me feel powerful. Art is so forceful that it upsets masses. I think it’s just all about power.

What’s keeping you busy these days?
I am not doing any show this year. Last year I did six solo exhibitions so I was very busy and travelling around a lot. This is my studio year. I go to the studio every day and have a wonderful time making art, and that sounds like a luxury to me because going to my studio everyday makes me the happiest person alive.

Any message for your followers or critics?
We should teach people to be tolerant. They have to learn and be experienced to imagery and history and they have to create a space where people are respected and looked at equally across ages, castes or religions.

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