From Kitchen To Table with Subodh Gupta

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart shares her experience attending Subodh Gupta’s performance feast “Celebration” at Performa 13.

Subodh Gupta "Celebration" at Performa 13

Subodh Gupta “Celebration” at Performa 13

New York: For the past three months, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Performa Intensive program through New York University. This included researching, assisting and participating in the production process for the well-known, visual art performance biennial under the Founding Director Roselee Goldberg. Throughout the process the most memorable and unique experience has been participating in Subodh Gupta’s piece “Celebration”, both as an aid to the kitchen staff and as a guest. Gupta is well known for his large-scale installations made from everyday objects from the Indian Subcontinent, specifically food containers such as steel tiffin boxes, thali pans and large pails. His work touches on the histories of Duchamp’s readymades, while simultaneously addressing issues of everyday life in India. Sources of inspiration range from politics to social issues. For “Celebration” (held at The Old Bowery Station) Gupta has constructed a massive chandelier made of various sized steel containers and a dazzling collection of light bulbs. The piece embodies the artist’s ability to transform these everyday vessels, while still honoring their place in everyday life. In addition to his spectacular installation, Gupta’s performance focuses on the concept of “feast” and how this event brings individuals together. Eight times throughout the biennial he prepared an elaborate meal for around fifty guests to enjoy, sharing the space with his spectacular chandelier.

Subodh Gupta at Performa 13

Subodh Gupta at Performa 13

Presented with the opportunity to assist in the kitchen for this project I was excited to get to see one of my favorite artists creating something innovative, yet so customary. Gupta’s piece stressed the role that feasting has in every community. Whether it is shared in mourning, happiness or simply togetherness, communal food presents an important element in every culture.  While helping in the kitchen, I was thrilled to see the artist actively involved in every part of the meal. He would be quickly stirring a pot and seconds later run over to direct and interact with the kitchen staff, preparing other elements of the meal. Simultaneously with being involved in the execution of every single part of the meal, Gupta also directed art handlers in the installation of his massive chandelier in the next room. The entire kitchen was buzzing with excitement and energy the way a family home would before a big holiday. Very rarely does one have the opportunity to witness an artist do something (aside from their chosen craft) with the passion and delight that Subodh Gupta expressed while cooking in the Bowery Station space.

"Celebration" by Subodh Gupta. The Old Bowery Station. Taken by Elizabeth Prendiville

“Celebration” by Subodh Gupta. The Old Bowery Station. Taken by Elizabeth Prendiville

Having this behind the scenes experience and actively participating in everything from plating bananas for dessert and drying cups to carrying packs of King Fisher beer into the event space, contributed to my understanding of Gupta’s performance. As a guest I immediately noticed that the space was pulsing with energy. Guests chatted, drank, ate and enjoyed the full sensory experience of “Celebration” from start to finish. As dessert was being served the artist took a moment to speak. He stressed the importance of community feasting in every culture, especially in India. Gupta explained that in Indian communities it is very common to share and serve food for strangers and foster new friendships in this celebratory setting. This was very fitting for the experience we shared as each table was packed with different groups mingling freely. When asked if his family or some other outside source influenced the menu Gupta simply said “I cooked the food I like to eat”. “Celebration” was truly a heartfelt performance that the artist generously shared with everyone in attendance.

"Celebration" by Subodh Gupta. The Old Bowery Station. Taken by Elizabeth Prendiville

“Celebration” by Subodh Gupta. The Old Bowery Station. Taken by Elizabeth Prendiville

Performa 13 runs through November 24th. For more information about artist’s classes, performances and other programming check out the official Performa 13 website here. 

Subodh Gupta|Recent Works @ Galleryske

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart invites you to Subodh Gupta’s recent exhibition at Galleryske, Bangalore

Subodh Gupta, Recent Works @ Galleryske

Subodh Gupta, Recent Works @ Galleryske. Image Credit:

London: Galleryske in Bangalore is currently hosting “Subodh Gupta: Recent Works”. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition of small works. “I’m quite excited about it. The poetry of doing something so small, personal and valuable to me; it’s quite a beautiful experience,” says Gupta.

Subodh Gupta, Note to Self (X), 2013

Subodh Gupta, Note to Self (X), 2013. Image Credit:


The exhibition features a selection of Subodh Gupta’s most recent artworks including installations, sculptures and paintings, all focusing on eating, cooking and travelling.

Subodh Gupta, Thoughts (Detail), 2013

Subodh Gupta, Thoughts (Detail), 2013. Image Credit:

“The paintings in this show are essentially a sort of diary for me. I have had the opportunity to travel to many parts of the world, and eat all kinds of local cuisine- it’s interesting that sometimes a restaurant in Italy will be identical to something you have probably visited in Delhi. I record my journey through the food, creating a visual archive. It is a way to map my outward movement from India to the rest of the world. As the title “Note to self”, suggests, the paintings are markers of meals had and shared, they are autobiographical in a sense”, explained Gupta.

Subodh Gupta, No Title, 2013

Subodh Gupta, No Title, 2013. Image Credit:

If you are hungry for more information click here and visit the exhibition! It is on until December 7.


Subodh Gupta: The Imaginary Order of Things

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares a note on Subodh Gupta’s exhibition at the CAC Malaga

Installation Shot @ Cacmalaga

Installation Shot @ Cacmalaga. Image Credit:

London: The Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga, Spain is currently presenting the first solo show of Subodh Gupta in Spain. The exhibition, curated by Fernando Francés, includes three works which have never been shown in an exhibition before.

“The Imaginary Order of Things” focuses especially on the theme of migration in India,  from rural to urban areas. This is expressed through symbolic objects such as a boat which is used to transport families and becomes their temporary home and objects from the past that they have to leave behind during their journey.

Ancestor Cupboard, Subodh Gupta, 2012

Ancestor Cupboard, Subodh Gupta, 2012. Image Credit:

Fernando Francés says about the artist: “Subodh Gupta is possibly the most poetic artist in the world. He does not renounce the material, but in fact bases himself on it, taking it to the limits of exaggeration, monumentality and the baroque (Bombaysers de Lille, a homage to the victims of the 2004 tsunami), it succeeds in making emotion – a sentiment as close-at-hand as it is rare – spread into and overturn all the boundaries and walls of thinking and reason. He is a sort of modern Robin Hood who appropriates the Indian drama, re-codifies it, imbues it with an emotional charge and gives it back to us as a gift for the eyes and mind. Nothing is the result of chance in his work. The very process of thought is a ritual or ceremony in which, like a skilled alchemist, he revives memories of childhood and youth, symbols, pots and pans, as if they were objects of desire or cult objects or both at the same time. He gives them patinas that bear messages: the bronzes and golds of the sacred, the steel of industrial progress. The result is a sort of equilibrium between antiquity and the avant-garde, chaos and order, harmony and upheaval, emotion and suspense. Only the skill of a poet can harmonise all these elements in a work of art with the certainty that there are no untruths in his discourse. The power to convince that is characteristic of Gupta’s work is only possible through his essential commitment to his work […].”

Take off your Shoes and Wash your Hands, Subodh Gupta, 2008

Take off your Shoes and Wash your Hands, Subodh Gupta, 2008. Image Credit:

Read here for more information on the exhibition and you have time until October 13 to see some of Gupta’s new works which are exhibited for the first time in Spain.

Subodh Gupta’s Massive Boat Docks in London

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on Subodh Gupta’s exhibition at Hauser & Wirth and a talk by the artist at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London

What does the vessel contain, that the river does not, Subodh Gupta, 2012

“What does the vessel contain, that the river does not”, Subodh Gupta, 2012. Photo by Elisabetta Marabotto

London: Following its success at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Houser & Wirth, London, decided to showcase to an international audience Subodh Gupta’s installation “What does the vessel contain, that the river does not”.

Subodh Gupta found inspiration for this work in the words of the famous Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi:

“What does the vat contain that is not in the river?

What does the room encompass that is not in the city?

This world is the vat, and the heart the running stream,

This world the room, and the heart the city of wonders.”

In this poem, Rumi embeds among the lines the idea that the entire universe is contained in our soul. Gupta was touched by this concept, and chose to visually express Rumi’s words through an art installation that drew parallels between an individuals’s life and a boat.

The artist filled the vessel, a traditional fishing boat from Kerala, with common objects that he found in Kochi and Delhi, carefully piling them into the vessel. Chairs, beds, a bicycle, window frames, fishing nets and cooking pots are among the objects Gupta has used to represent our cluttered lives.

Detail of "What does the vessel contain, that the river does not", Subodh Gupta, 2012

Detail of “What does the vessel contain, that the river does not”, Subodh Gupta, 2012. Photo by Elisabetta Marabotto

Through this work Gupta also raises questions about cultural dislocation, feelings of belonging and displacement, movement and stability, which are symbols of the current epoch. Hence the boat acquires both positive and negative connotations. The fact that the boat is displayed with one end raised up from the floor gives the impression that it is floating, and transmits positive energies. At the same time, however, walking underneath the raised boat generates feelings of anxiety and discomfort.

Verso of What the vessel contain, that the river does not", Subodh Gupta, 2012

Passing underneath “What the vessel contain, that the river does not”, Subodh Gupta, 2012. Photo by Elisabetta Marabotto

Last Tuesday, in conjunction with the exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, the Courtauld Institute of Art in London hosted a panel discussion titled ‘The Routes of Success’, between Subodh Gupta, Jessica Morgan (the Daskalopoulos Curator, International Art, Tate Modern) and Deborah Swallow (Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art).

From the left Jessica Morgan, Deborah Swallow and Subodh Gupta at the Courtauld Institute of Art

From left: Jessica Morgan, Deborah Swallow and Subodh Gupta at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Photo by Elisabetta Marabotto

The panel discussion was preceded by a presentation by an unexpectedly shy Subodh Gupta, who discussed his major works of which you find a selection between the text below.

29 Mornings, Subodh Gupta, 1996

29 Mornings, Subodh Gupta, 1996. Image Credit:

After the presentation, a more confident and very entertaining Gupta had a very interesting exchange with Morgan and Swallow. The artist revealed his past as an aspiring actor, a career that was derailed once he started painting film posters. In fact, he only joined art school because he was convinced by his friends. And now he is one of the most acclaimed Indian contemporary artists in the world!

The scale of his artworks was also one of the topics tackled in the discussion. Although slightly shy on stage, Gupta is not shy at all in his artworks’ dimensions! The artist however stated that the creation of large artworks wasn’t premeditated; it just happened. And once it started it became a habit, and now he can’t stop it!

Gupta also discussed his love/hate relationship with painting. It is something he doesn’t feel confident about and that is one of the reasons why he often “secretly” embeds photography in his paintings. He said: “painting is hard to make, doing a good one is like reaching nirvana”!

Aam Aadmi, Subodh Gupta, 2009

Aam Aadmi, Subodh Gupta, 2009. Image Credit:

The artist also added that he doesn’t intentionally make political art, but art comes from where you live, from what surrounds you, and so that is why politics and social issues cannot be taken away from it.

His main influences are to be found in the work of some of the Indian masters such as M.F. Husain, Jagdish Swaminatan, Francis Newton Souza, and more recently in the Khoj Workshop that freed him from any kind of restrictions on his creativity.

E tu, Duchamp?, Subodh Gupta, 2009

E tu, Duchamp?, Subodh Gupta, 2009. Image Credit:

I would like to conclude with an interesting question/point of discussion that came up during the talk about whether it is always possible to transport art outside its country of origin. This was discussed in respect of Spirit Eater, one of Subodh Gupta’s latest works which is deeply embedded with cultural references and traditions which make it extremely difficult to be understood. The artist was reluctant about the idea of compulsorily bringing his art out of India, because sometimes it could be misunderstood and its original message lost.

I’ll leave you reflecting on this topic, and encourage you to visit Subodh Gupta’s exhibition in London. Click here for more information on the exhibition.

French Distinction “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters” Conferred on Subodh Gupta

Medha Kapur shares a note on Subodh Gupta’s knighting ceremony in Mumbai.

Mumbai: On the inaugural Indo-French festival, Bonjour India, the French government bestowed the award of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) on internationally renowned sculptor-artist Subodh Gupta. The honour comes in recognition of an artist whose remarkable originality has been inspired by the daily life of an India on the move, while maintaining special ties with France, where some of his earliest exhibitions were held. H.E. Mr François Richier, Ambassador of France to India, conferred the distinction on Gupta at the inauguration of the Bonjour India 2013 festival.

The French Ambassador François Richier & Subodh Gupta

The French Ambassador François Richier & Subodh Gupta
Image Courtesy:

Conferred Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters Chevalier dans lOrdre des Arts et des Lettres

Conferred Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters Chevalier dans lOrdre des Arts et des Lettres
Image Courtesy:

The crème de la crème of the city were seen at this event including Subodh’s wife, the renowned artist Bharti Kher, Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, author Gregory David Roberts with wife Princesse Francoise Sturdza, Aishwarya Pathy, Maithili Parekh, artist Jitish Kallat and designer Abu Jani to name a few.

Aamir Khan & Kiran Rao

Aamir Khan & Kiran Rao
Image Courtesy:

Gregory David Roberts & Princesse Francoise Sturdza

Gregory David Roberts & Princesse Francoise Sturdza
Image Courtesy:

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