New Delhi: A day after allegations of repeated sexual misconduct surfaced against Subodh Gupta, the high profile contemporary artist stepped down as co-curator of the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa on Friday and denied that he had indulged in any inappropriate behaviour.
The claims of sexual harassment are "entirely false and fabricated", Gupta told PTI in a statement after a former co-worker recounted the alleged experiences of several women on social media and an art writer came 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.
"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," Gupta said.
Responding to the allegations, Serendipity Arts Festival also issued a statement, informing that the artist will not be present at the December 15-22 event and had stepped down from position of a curator.
It said the art organisation "supports the #MeToo movement and is committed to the safety of all in the workplace and the welfare of the extended Festival community and its participants".
It said in its statement that it is an organisation with multiple social objectives, focused on creating an inclusive and responsible space for practitioners across the artistic spectrum.
"In light of recent comments, Subodh Gupta has issued a statement denying the said comments. He has decided to step back and will not be present at the festival, so as not to detract from the collaborative efforts of over 90 projects at the Serendipity Arts Festival this year," the festival organisers said.
On Thursday, the anonymous post by a former co-worker of the 54-year-old artist alleged that he "grabbed the hand, touched the stomach, breasts, shoulders, pulled at bra straps, rubbed the thighs".
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.
Commenting on the post, D'mello 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".
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.