Property from a Private American Collection 


stainless steel, stainless steel utensils
84 x 60 x 24 in. (213.4 x 152.4 x 61 cm.)
Executed in 2007; number three from an edition of three
P. Nagy, Start.Stop, Exhibition Catalogue, Bodhi Art, Mumbai, March 2007, unpaginated, another from the edition illustrated
S. Ray, Subodh Gupta; Locating culture, International Gallerie: A Journey of Ideas Beyond Boundaries, Mumbai, Vol 10, No 1, 2007, p. 9, illustrated
Subodh Gupta; Gandhi's Three Monkeys, Exhibition Catalogue, J. Shainman Gallery, New York, 2008, p. 149-154, illustrated
Mumbai, Bodhi Art, Start.Stop, March 2007
New York, Jack Shainman Gallery, Subodh Gupta; Gandhi's Three Monkeys, March - April 2008

Lot Essay

Subodh Gupta draws heavily from his own experience in culling material for his art, recasting traditional objects of Indian culture in contemporary media and contexts. The artist has an uncanny ability to identify those icons of Indian culture that possess innate dichotomies suggesting both the traditional and modern, the rural and urban, the wealthy and the impoverished. He uses clichs such as the cow and the stainless steel utensils of a typical South Asian kitchen to comment on larger social ills of discrimination, caste politics, globalization, industrialization, and religious tensions that transcend well beyond the fetishizing of 'kitsch'.

Bearing a quasi-ecclesiastical title, Miter is part of a larger series using the stainless-steel bartans (vessels) that can be interpreted on multiple levels. Gupta has often likened the modern day kitchen to the idea of the secular temple as a central axis to the home while referring to his vessels as idols and/or hungry gods (See lot 112 catalogue note). While on the one hand he treats his subject matter with reverence, he also pokes fun at the materialism that has shifted India's focus away from the spiritual, as exemplified in his Curry series which was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2005. There the stacked vessels on stainless steel shelves can also be envisioned as a modern-day shrine.

Filtering through his cache of symbols, the stainless steel vessel is an iconic emblem of Gupta's work and epitomizes his ability to find tension and irony in the mundane. The artist regularly employs the stainless steel bucket and cooking implements in both painting and as a kind of Duchampian ready-made. The artist has recast dishes, pots, and pans in a number of incarnations, piling them into the shape of temples, hanging them precariously from the ceiling and, in the spirit of Jeff Koons, magnifying a single pail to mammoth proportions. Like Koons' charmed hearts and balloons, the shiny reflective quality of these works also ensure that the surrounding environment becomes an element of the work. However, where Koons' work harps on the very public realm of Western consumerism Gupta's focus falls on the interior of Indian life - the minutia of culture and tradition.

Indeed, so commonplace are Gupta's stainless steel pots and pans that these fundamentally pedestrian household objects have seemingly become embedded in the very social fabric of the day-to-day culture of the Subcontinent. Revealing the sensuous splendor of these familiar objects as if they are precious or luxurious commodities, produced for the consumption of a very wealthy and completely different class of person - which as artworks, indeed, they are - these works simultaneously celebrate and exploit Indian culture. In doing so, these deceptively simple-looking works, with their Koons-like play on class, commodity and the seductive nature of material, stir up anxieties and ask profound questions about the enormous changes currently taking place in India - changes that range from the dramatic shifts in wealth that have accompanied the country's recent economic boom and their effect on the nation's ancient, agrarian and deeply spiritual culture to modern India's complex relationship with the West. All these questions seem to be reflected in the high-gloss sheen of these familiar, homely, stainless steel forms and Gupta has condensed it all into an icon of Indian vision.

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