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#MeToo: Subodh Gupta is 'serial sexual harasser', alleges Instagram post

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: December 13, 2018  | 16:53 IST

New Delhi, Dec 13 (PTI) Allegations of repeated sexual misconduct surfaced on Thursday against high-profile artist Subodh Gupta with a former co-worker recounting the experiences of several women on social media and an art writer coming forward to corroborate their stories "as a witness". While the post on Instagram by ‘Scene and Herd’, a handle that has been aggressively exposing inappropriate behaviour in the Indian art world, was anonymous, Rosalyn D'mello, who has been actively writing on art for the past decade, said she backed the allegations and expressed the fear that the art world would be “dismissive” of the charges. D'mello added that she was backing the post -- the latest in India's #MeToo movement against sexual harassment -- as a “witness”, fully aware that it “will come at a huge personal cost and may directly impact my livelihood as an art writer”. Several calls and messages to Gupta, one of the curators of this year’s Serendipity Arts Festival and among India's most successful contemporary artists, asking for his response went unanswered. Organisers of the annual Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa said they would not release any statement on the incident for now. According to the Instagram post, the 54-year-old made unwelcome advances on multiple occasions – “grabbed the hand, touched the stomach, breasts, shoulders, pulled at bra straps, rubbed the thighs” – towards several of his assistants and co-workers. The post is by a former co-worker of the artist who, besides sharing her own ordeal with Gupta, listed a series of similar encounters by other women “after taking their permission”. Despite several people warning women against him and asking them to be “careful” around the artist, she said she was “surprised” no one came forward to call out Gupta as a “serial sexual harasser”. “I have personally received multiple inappropriate advances and unwanted touching from him, even after clearly saying no. I know I am not alone,” she wrote. She went on to share the alleged horror stories of other women who spoke about similar experiences. In one instance, she said, Gupta, allegedly pointed to a newly hired assistant and loudly asked a senior gallerist – “Do you think I should f*** her tonight?” In another incident, he allegedly repeatedly asked an assistant to pose nude for him, despite her persistent refusals. “He then said, ‘can you find one of your friends to do it? Only if they have a good body’, followed by a ‘creepy’ laugh,” the post said. Gupta has been accused of “offering massages to young women working with him”. The post also talks about two separate incidents when the artist after being confronted over inappropriate behaviour, dismissed the assistant as “too young” in one and in another asked if saying he was drunk would “make it okay”. “After having advances rejected or being confronted for inappropriate behavior, he has dismissed an assistant as ‘too young and inexperienced’ or naïve, and accused her of being unable to deliver on her professional duties... “On a different occasion, when confronted by an assistant who witnessed his behavior, he responded, ‘she just looked so sexy. Ok, maybe, write one email saying sorry, I got too drunk, will that make it ok? I’m the artist, and she just works as an assistant, it should be ok no? What do you think?” the post read. D'mello came forward on both Facebook and Instagram to corroborate the allegations. “My first fear was that the art world was going to be dismissive of it once again because by dissing the site (Scene and Herd) so much, many had seemed to find a convenient way to de-legitimise its testimonies,” she wrote. D’mello, who has worked with Delhi-based Nature Morte, a gallery that represents Gupta, said she has been hearing about “almost all the instances mentioned in the herdandscene testimony” since September this year, but could not expose Gupta because the stories were not for her to tell. “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,” she wrote. Earlier this year, allegations surfaced against artists like Jatin Das and Riyas Komu, also the co-founder of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, as well as Sotheby's India MD Gaurav Bhatia. Both Komu and Bhatia stepped down from their positions as their respective organisations initiated inquiries into the charges. PTI TRS MIN MIN

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