SUBODH GUPTA (b. 1964)
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SUBODH GUPTA (b. 1964)


SUBODH GUPTA (b. 1964)
stainless steel, iron
48 x 48 x 20½ in. (121.9 x 121.9 x 52 cm.)
Executed in 2003; this work is from an edition of three
Art & Public, Cabinet PH, Geneva Acquired from the above by the present owners in 2006
Another version of this work has been published in the following: Where in the World, exhibition catalogue, Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi, 2008,
N. Bourriaud, et al., eds., Subodh Gupta Gandhi's Three Monkeys, New York, 2008, pp. 126-130 (illustrated)
A. Poddar, 'Image, Camera, Action,' Art India, Volume XIV Issue II, 2009, p.30 (illustrated)
A larger version of this work has been exhibited at the following: New Delhi, Devi Art Foundation, Where in the World, December 2008 - May 2009
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Lot Essay

This semi-globed constellation by celebrated artist Subodh Gupta transforms hundreds of stainless steel tongs or 'chimta' (a common Indian kitchen staple used for handling chapatti and naan bread) into a metallic explosion of wonder. Using the medium of stainless steel has been an iconic emblem of Gupta's artistic vocabulary, particularly in the form of Duchampian style ready-mades in his choice of cooking utensils; items embedded in the social fabric of day-to-day culture of the Subcontinent. By revealing the sensuous splendor of familiar objects as if they are precious or luxurious commodities, such works simultaneously celebrate and exploit Indian culture. Gupta stirs questions about the dramatic changes and shifts that accompany India's economic strengthening and its effect on the country's deeply spiritual and ancient culture, complexities within the dichotomies of rural and urban, the wealthy and the impoverished, tradition and modernity. Subodh Gupta's work encompasses sculpture, installation, painting, photography, performance and video.

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. He uses cliches 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, globalisation, industrialisation, and religious tensions that transcend well beyond the fetishising of 'kitsch'. 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.

In this work Chimta, common chapatti tongs - used to shield fingers and keep lower-caste cooks from touching bread in the kitchen - are suspended from a wall-based armature. The conceptual reference point is starkly post minimalist using an aesthetic stocked with exotically direct representation.

The artist to Christopher Mooney, Subodh Gupta: The Idol Thief, Art Review Issue 17, December 2007)

"Bread," says Gupta, "is common to all human life," and he launches into an entertaining Munshi Premchand story about a boy who buys his granny a cimta tong. Gupta is an inveterate storyteller; our conversation is peppered with meandering tales drawn from Hindu mythology and Bollywood. "That's what influenced me. And then I transformed it. That is what art is. It has nothing to do with cimta any more. Even I don't know what it is now."

"There are many things in my baggage, Gupta tells me. I am the idol thief. I steal from the drama of Hindu life. And from the kitchen - these pots, they are like stolen gods, smuggled out of the country. Hindu kitchens are as important as prayer rooms. These pots are like something sacred, part of important rituals, and I buy them in a market. They think I have a shop, and I let them think it. I get them wholesale."
Christopher Mooney, Subodh Gupta: The Idol Thief, Art Review Issue 17, December 2007)

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