Subodh Gupta

The NGMA Delhi has this retrospective. Would be great to visit if you are in Delhi.

Arts & Culture
Subodh Gupta the Damien Hirst of New Delhi
Shoba Narayan
February 1, 2014 Updated: February 2, 2014 11:46:00

Famously dubbed the “Damien Hirst of New Delhi” by The Guardian, Subodh Gupta is arguably the subcontinent’s most celebrated contemporary artist. The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in New Delhi opened a retrospective of Subodh Gupta’s works this month, curated by Germano Celant. It is Gupta’s most comprehensive exhibition in India to date and the biggest exhibition the NGMA has ever dedicated to a contemporary Indian artist.

The exhibition is spread across two buildings – the ornate Jaipur House, originally built as the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur in 1936, and the museum’s modern concrete-and-glass extension constructed in 2009.

Gupta’s work has been shown in many major international exhibitions including the Tate Triennial in London (2009); Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2012), Kochi, India; The Saatchi Gallery London (2010); and the Guggenheim Museum, New York NY (2010). His works are in the collections of major museums worldwide, among them Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Tate Collection in London, the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.

What interests you about the microcosm and why have you focused on that with your solo show, Everything Is Inside?

The show came out of my previous sculpture of a black taxi with luggage on top. I had titled it Everything Is Inside. The idea for that piece came at the airline baggage carousels when I observed Indians returning from the Gulf countries where they worked. They had so much luggage that they had packed it all into bundles. You couldn’t even unpack it because it was tied so tightly. I was curious about what was inside. Was it gifts, toys, watches? This show came about based on that piece.

What are some of the fresh works that viewers can expect to see at the NGMA? Can you talk about the All in the Same Boat, the new work you’ve created for this exhibition?

The Kerala fishing boat in this piece is an object that I used like a canvas. This is an object that has a lot of poetic resonance for many people. You look at the boat and you feel calm and peaceful. I am attracted to objects that contain a lot of meaning, such as boats and vessels. It is interesting to think about what to put on top of that.

A lot of your work is about identity. What are some of the themes that interest you?

Identity is linked to my journey as an artist. I gain inspiration from the objects that surround me and the ones I see within my own world – plates, food, vessels – simple objects such as those. All these become works that go to Shanghai and other parts of the world. Everything Is Inside had four large works that have never been shown in India. Even for people who have seen my work, these are new installations. Two are outdoor works and two are indoor. The rest have come from Italy, England, Korea and other countries. There are many new pieces that have never been exhibited in this country. We spent days installing it.

Why is this show significant?

First of all, this is my first solo show at the NGMA. That is important to me because this is my country. This is my home. It is a proud moment for me because the NGMA is a great museum that I have grown up visiting. To be part of it is one of the most important things for me.

What do you think about the contemporary art scene in India?

We need more art schools. We need more space to show art. We need more art lovers and collectors. I was asking someone, why is it that in India we don’t have 100 new artists every year? Where are all the young artists? Museums should exhibit contemporary artists as well. When people see artists like me, there will be lots of questions, lots of curiosity. That is something we lack in this country.

What comes next?

I have a show at a museum in Frankfurt in the autumn. I am also part of many group shows this year, including one at Venice.

• Everything Is Inside will run until March 16 at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi. Visit

Kochi Biennale

How I wish I were in Kochi now!

 The artist Sudarshan Shetty is among those who have created artwork especially for the biennale. Courtesy Kochi-Muziris Biennale

All for art and art for all: Kochi Kerala get its first biennale

After months of excitement and controversy, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale will open tomorrow in Kochi, Kerala. Named after an ancient seaport and a renamed city (previously called Cochin), India’s first biennale will begin with a performance by the English recording artist MIA (Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam). The event will bring together 88 artists from 24 countries, 1,300 performers, as well as art historians and curators, according to the organisers.

Several acclaimed artists have created site-specific work, including India’s Sudarshan Shetty, Subodh Gupta, LN Tallur and Sheela Gowda, as well as international artists such as the Dubai-based Ubik, Hossein Valamanesh (Iran/Australia), Ariel Hassan (Argentina), Amanullah Mojadidi (Afghanistan) and Ernesto Neto (Brazil).

“Kochi’s historical roots have inspired many of the artists who are showing here,” says Riyas Komu, the biennale’s co-founder. “So we have international artists who are doing reflections of Kochi. For example, Ubik is a Dubai-based Malayali artist and he is doing a site-specific reflection of Kochi.”

The lecture series includes the conservation architect Benny Kuriakose, as well as Chris Dercon, the director of the Tate Modern, who is speaking on December 24. Films by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Kerala’s most famous director, will also be screened.

There will also be a two-day symposium titled Emerging Platforms for Contemporary Art in India on December 15 and 16. Eminent art and cultural historians such as Geeta Kapur, Ranjit Hoskote, Nancy Adajania, Gayatri Sinha and Pooja Sood will participate.

Support from the Indian art fraternity has been strong. The artist-couple Jitish Kallat and Reena Saini plan to attend the symposium, both to support the effort and “to feel energised from it,” says Kallat. The gallerist Sunitha Kumar Emmart has been phoning friends and associates and urging them to attend the biennale. “It’s a not-for-profit and it is rare that you get to view contemporary art that is untainted by commerce in India,” says Emmart.

More than anything, the biennale will increase the footfall into the state, something that the tourism department badly needs.

The artist Sudharshan Shetty is one of many visitors expected in Kerala. Although he hails from the neighbouring state of Karnataka and lives in Mumbai, he says that he never visited Kerala until a few months ago when he went to look at the site of his proposed architectural installation. “Kochi is one of the most cosmopolitan places that existed in the old world, with [people from all over] coming together in this fertile land,” he says. “It reflects the character of this country as one welcoming to different kinds of immigrants.”

Although the scale and variety of works that are going up is impressive, the biennale has been marred by controversy. The state government wants to initiate a probe into allegations of financial impropriety. “The previous Kerala government that had supported the biennale, gave funds of 50 million rupees [Dh3.4m] to the founding team and also exempted them from the financial code restrictions that apply to government funds,” says P K Hornis Tharakan, one of the biennale’s trustees. That seems to have rubbed some people the wrong way, especially the older, local Kerala artists, who have protested against government support for what is now viewed as an extravagant project. Tharakan says that instead of resorting to mudslinging in the days before the opening, “there must be a comprehensive audit done after the biennale to find out if the government’s allegations are indeed true”.

Komu, the biennale’s co-founder, says he welcomes the government investigation. “People don’t understand the magnitude of this project,” he says. “Setting the biennale in this region is going to benefit everyone – the art lovers who will see world-class art, the artists who will be nourished by exposure to practices that are different from theirs and local businesses who will get the additional tourist revenues.”

The people of Kochi, too, have undergone a transformation. After weeks of ignoring the effort, they have now embraced it and not just because of the additional revenue it brings to the state. Some have started leasing or giving their homes to the biennale committee as guest houses, others have donated money and time. A few have tried to influence the government. “The government doesn’t have a policy to understand or preserve art galleries or museum structures. We welcome the probe into the biennale, because it will finally shed some light into what is viewed as an arcane process,” says Komu.


The Kochi-Muziris Biennale starts tomorrow and runs until March 13. For more details, visit


Art in America- India Art Fair

A piece for Art in America

India Art Fair Gains Major Dealers, Courts Collectors

by shoba narayan 01/24/12

“Once you exceed 100,000 people, it’s not a numbers game anymore. It’s about bringing high quality collectors in,” says Neha Kirpal, 31, founder of the India Art Fair, explaining to A.i.A. her strategy for the fair’s fourth edition, which takes place at the NSIC Grounds in New Delhi, Jan. 25–29. Last year, some 128,000 people visited the fair—that’s London’s Frieze and Art Basel Miami Beach combined, by some estimates.

This year, 91 galleries from 19 countries have signed up to show at India’s largest-and only-contemporary art fair, half of them Indian and the other half international. These include White Cube, Hauser & Wirth, Gallery Continua and Grosvenor Gallery. Among the participating Indian galleries are Gallery Ske, Sakshi Gallery, Naturemorte, Tasveer Arts and Apparao Galleries, showing marquee names such as Bharti Kher, Jitish Kallat and Subodh Gupta.

This year the fair adds a performance workshop called KhojLive, hosted at Blue Frog, a nightclub and performance space. Performa biennial founder RoseLee Goldberg will deliver the introductory lecture, after which 13 Indian artists, including Pushpamala N. & Mamta Sagar, Vivan Sundaram, Mr. Dotty and Madame Potty, will showcase their performance works.

Each gallery pays Rs. 18,000 (about $359) per square meter to rent a booth. This income, along with corporate sponsorships, is the main revenue for the fair. At $4, or Rs. 200, the entry ticket is priced lower than the cost of a “Bollywood movie ticket,” according to Kirpal. Last year, artist Anish Kapoor was a speaker, along with Homi Bhabha, dean of Harvard’s school of humanities. India’s Congress Party president, Sonia Gandhi, visited the booths, swarmed by security.

Kirpal and her team of young art management professionals (mostly women), work through the year for the four-day event. The logistics aren’t easy. Last year, a leak in the roof just weeks before the opening meant organizers had to waterproof 11,000 square feet of roof. “No other organization would do that in India because nobody else shows art on this scale here,” says Kirpal.

After returning to India from London in 2007, Kirpal wanted to do an art fair along the lines of Frieze and Basel. “Nobody even knew what an art fair was,” she says. “Everyone said that it wouldn’t work in a chaotic country like India.” She wrote a business plan on an airline sickness bag, borrowed about $500,000 from a private investor and founded the first Indian Art Summit, as it was called in 2008. Only 10,000 visitors attended and the Indian art establishment predicted that the venture would die. It didn’t, partly because Kirpal made some smart moves like synching with the Jaipur Literary Festival, held a week before the art fair, and partly because, like the Jaipur Literary Festival, the art fair was treading on virgin ground. Once the fair’s organizers got the formula right, the celebrities began coming. Oprah Winfrey is in India now to attend the literary festival, and organizers hope she’ll visit the art fair as well. Visitors come “by private plane or two-day train rides,” says Kirpal with satisfaction.

“What makes the India Art Fair compelling relative to other Asian art fairs are the numbers,” says Malini Gulrajani, owner of 1×1 gallery, Dubai, who has participated in the fair since its inception. “We did in Art Stage Singapore and there were about 20 to 30,000 people.” Even the Hong Kong International Art Fair (Art HK), arguably the region’s biggest, recorded 63,000 visitors last year.

Earlier this year, Sandy Angus and Will Ramsey, who co-founded Art HK (which was acquired by Art Basel last year), bought a 51-percent stake in the India Art Fair. Kirpal used the cash infusion to repay her start-up loans and has used the fair’s success to work on easing government regulations on the import and export of artworks.

This year, for the first time, the Indian government has designated the fair a “temporary museum,” which allows galleries to import and export artwork duty free; they only pay duty on works that are actually sold. In previous years, law required they pay duty upfront, regardless of whether a work was sold. The Indian government charges 14- to 17-percent duty, compared with Dubai’s 5 percent. “I spent a lot of time lobbying with the government to convince them that the country will make more on cultural tourism through events such as the art fair than they make on import duty,” says Kirpal.

She also is working on developing a collector base in an immature market. This year, she has launched a “Collector’s Circle,” which will provide lectures and art walks for its members. “I want to use the art fair as a catalyst and tool to develop the art scene in India,” she says.


Anupam Poddar Profile

This is a profile of Indian art collector, Anupam Poddar, who has one of the best collections of Indian Contemporary Art.  As the piece suggests, it could well become an Asian art collection in the near future.

Here is the URL of the profile in The National

Here is the PDF upload.Poddar Page 1Poddar Page 2

Here is the URL of a column I wrote for Mint