Police in Delhi shut down gay photography exhibition

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A photographic exhibition celebrating gay life which opened in Delhi last week has been closed by the police following an anonymous complaint that its content was obscene.

The exhibition, held at the Alliance Française, features the work of photographer Sunil Gupta and is titled Sun City and Other Stories: Paris-San Francisco-Delhi. Mr Gupta’s exhibition opened to a rapturous response last Friday, and was supposed to run until mid-April. The project showcased a fictional narrative based on Chris Marker’s 1961 French avant-garde film La Jetée, using homosexuality as a medium to connect to the life in Paris.

The complaint came to the police on Saturday. An officer reportedly said: “[the caller] said a blue film was being played at Alliance Française. Since it is a diplomatic area, the police cannot enter the premises. Hence an area assistant sub-inspector went [there] and spoke to the manager and they decided to take action accordingly.”

The action is somewhat at odds with the landmark ruling by the Delhi High Court, which made homosexuality between two consenting adults legal.

Mr Gupta said he did not fully understand the closure of his exhibition. “I was approached by Alliance Française to set up this exhibition since a large part of it was shot in Paris. After the opening [on Friday] someone lodged a complaint and the police apparently asked for some pictures to be taken down. Alliance complied and I thought that was it.”

He added that the Alliance Française management told him the closure would only last a day. He later discovered it had been closed down indefinitely, but says he never received formal notice.

The Alliance Française said: “The decision to shut down the exhibition was taken by the director [of Alliance Française] unanimously with the artist. The opening of the exhibition, held on Friday, was a private affair and during the opening only it was decided that we will not continue with the exhibition.”

Members of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) also issued a statement protesting the unexplained shutdown: “If major institutions like them [Alliance Française] cannot stand up against complaints made by a single individual and support the work of an artist they have invited to exhibit, they do not deserve the respect or patronage of the art community. We hope the Alliance will clarify the circumstances which have led to yet another instance of moral policing against the freedom of expression.”

To date, Alliance Française have not clarified their actions.