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Pranava Prakash's nude paintings prompt scuffle in India

February 1, 2012 | 11:33 am

Vidya Balan

The art world has suffered a couple of indignities lately -- with nudity at the heart of the matter, however strangely.

First, in case you missed this bit of Internet cotton candy the first time around, a Colorado woman allegedly damaged a painting from the late abstract expressionist artist Clyfford Still to the tune of $10,000 by "sliding her buttocks" against it, among other offenses.

Now, Indian neopop artist Pranava Prakash has been thrashed, according to the Times of India, by unidentified men who took issue with nude depictions of several Bollywood stars, including Vidya Balan and Pakistani actor Veena Malik. Whatever happened to taking your complaints to video, like the honorable if misguided Andy Rooney did in his codgerly rant against public art?

Anyway, the Times of India goes on to report that Prakash was attacked in Noida's Espace Alternative Gallery on Sunday after the men barged into the space, yelling out "slogans" against nudity. According to the gallery owner, the artist tried to calm them and was promptly pushed around, his paintings also torn down.

After the incident, Prakash told the newspaper: "I was just walking about the gallery when some unidentified men appeared and started misbehaving with me. They accused me of disrespecting India's culture."

So what was so incendiary about these paintings? The piece with Vidya showed her posing nude for the "Picasso of India" painter MF Husain; Malik was portrayed with the Pakistani flag painted on her bare back. Both actresses have caught fire for controversial appearances on Indian TV, magazines and movies, and have made public statements about women's roles and conservative sexual mores in Indian and Pakistani culture.

This isn't the first time Pranava has combined nationalistic imagery with people in the buff: Another of his paintings, "The Goddess of Fifteen Minutes of Fame," shows author Arundhati Roy nude in bed with Osama bin Laden and Chairman Mao, which prompted the Lalit Kala Academy to swiftly cancel his show.

No word yet on the whereabouts of the unidentified men, but they're definitely not at the Met, gazing at "Reclining Nude" by Modigliani.


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Photo: Bollywood actress Vidya Balan, one of the subjects of Pranava Prakash's nude paintings, at an event for 2011 Hindi movie "The Dirty Picture." Credit: STRDEL/ AFP / Getty Images