India's leading contemporary artist has been named in a new #MeToo allegation that emerged on social media on Thursday, 13 December.
Subodh Gupta — known for his massive installations that incorporate stainless steel utensils and everyday Indian objects and described as 'Delhi's Damien Hirst' — has been accused of sexual harassment in an anonymous account shared on Instagram.
The anonymous post — which seemingly includes testimony from Gupta's female assistants — was shared by the Instagram handle @herdsceneand, that has been addressing #MeToo stories from the Indian art world in recent weeks.
While Firstpost has not received permission yet to quote directly from the accounts concerning Gupta on Instagram, the accusations levelled against the artist include inappropriate touching, passing lewd comments, and repeatedly making unwelcome advances towards his assistants.
The allegation further claims that Gupta dismissed an assistant who rejected his advances as being "too young and inexperienced", and unable to discharge her professional duties.
Gupta has denied the allegations, calling them 'false and fabricated'. "I deny the anonymous allegations made on the Instagram account @herdsceneand in their entirety; I have never behaved in an inappropriate manner with any individual who worked with me and several of my former assistants can attest to this. These allegations are entirely false and fabricated," he said to Firstpost.
Repeated requests sent to representatives of the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa on 13 December, where Gupta is among the curators, yielded no statement.
Nature Morte, the gallery that represents Gupta, has not issued a statement at present (Firstpost reached out via Twitter on 14 December). However, Hauser & Wirth, which represents Gupta internationally, told ARTnews: “We have been made aware of the statements being made about Subodh Gupta’s behaviour towards women and are deeply troubled by them. Hauser & Wirth upholds the highest standards of mutual respect and maintains a zero-tolerance policy toward all forms of harassment and discrimination, including sexual harassment.”
Meanwhile, art critic Rosalyn D'Mello said she had heard of nearly all the incidents mentioned in the @herdsceneand post in September 2017 and wished to bear witness to them.
"In the last few days in Kochi [at the Biennale], I've been privy to many conversations that have been dismissive of #herdandscene. I, too, have had some issues with the tone, but have found it very empowering as a platform through which one can at least talk about situations of abuse and sexual misconduct in the art world," D'Mello wrote on Facebook.
"I read on #herdandscene about the allegations against Subodh Gupta. My first fear was that the art world was going to be dismissive of it once again because by dissing the site so much, many had seemed to find a convenient way to de-legitimise its testimonies. I am writing this here to bear witness," her post read.
"I know it will come at a huge personal cost and may directly impact my livelihood as an art writer," she added. "Since September, I learned about almost all the instances mentioned in the #herdandscene testimony. I could not speak about it because they were not my truths to tell, and I was told them in confidence, and the survivors didn't feel ready to come out. I will write more about this later. But if it helps anyone, I want to state that the post pertaining to Subodh is not 'made up' or isn't 'revenge' or isn't 'attention-seeking'. They are true. They happened. Unless you choose not to believe them. That's your prerogative."
Previously, artists such as Jatin Das, Riyas Komu and photographer Shahid Datawala have been named in #MeToo allegations. The gallery TARQ pulled down Datawala's exhibition while Komu had to step down from his position with the Kochi Muziris Biennale Foundation after the accusations against them were reported.
In November, Sotheby India's managing director Gaurav Bhatia was sent on leave following accusations of sexual misconduct that were first aired on @herdsceneand.
Updated Date: Jan 09, 2019 15:32:30 IST