IT is now the National Art Gallery’s turn to flash other, extremely worrying sides of the picture. A report in this paper says how nature and a lack of resources are combining to rob the paintings hanging at NAG of their colour and texture. There are signs of paint wearing off and a few scratches are visible — and we are not talking of the works of old masters here. The paintings in danger are relatively new, as art goes, having been done by Saeed Akhtar, Colin David and their contemporaries. If these cannot stand the environment that has been created around them, one can only pray that works going further back in time will withstand the general neglect. What makes matters more complicated is that NAG is considered to be one of the better-managed art facilities in the country. Many other galleries and studios have failed to fend off the damage that inevitably occurs when paintings are not well protected.
The standard official answer to the concern shown at this gradual crumbling of heritage routinely ends with a lament about lack of resources and other priorities. Pages after pages of appeals and warnings have gone unheeded, leading to the assumption that the government is complacent as these art works slowly die. If that is painful, the incredulous follows when a minister is next found talking about the importance of art to counter the negative tendencies in society. It is obvious that the government is not doing enough on its own to fight negligence. The latter in art preservation is proof of the gap that exists between the hollow chants of the need to promote a ‘soft image’ — as if this was an end unto itself — and the actual official thinking.