Shilpa Gupta’s successful start to 2013

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart discusses Shilpa Gupta’s works and her eventful start to 2013

New York: A contemporary Indian new media artist, Shilpa Gupta’s body of work presents a consistent progression in theory and practice that has rightfully earned her a firm spot in the arena of contemporary Indian art. Alumni of the Sir J. J. School of Fine Arts in Mumbai, the main crux of her artistic practice is to explore the role and purpose of art- this enquiry taking many forms.

The artists has had a packed start to the year, currently exhibiting at Galerie im Taxispalais in Innsbruck, Austria in a show titled Will we ever be able to mark enough?, curated by Renee Baert and which will subsequently travel to Montreal and Bruges.

Gupta is also showing at Art Basel. Her works at the art fair include Stars on flags of the world with the Mumbai based gallery Chemould Prescott Road, Untitled shown by the Parisian gallery Yvon Lambert and 2651-1 by Dvir Gallery from Tel Aviv, Israel.

In the first half of 2013 alone, she has been featured in various group shows at places including the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in England, the Singapore Art Museum, the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast, the Guggenheim in New York, the Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates and a group show at the Faurschou Foundation in Copenhagen.

Gupta is careful in her rhetoric not to delegate categories to identify her work or practice. She prefers to call it ‘everyday art’ given her preoccupation with daily observations and current events. To relegate her works to set categories would be limiting the scope of their discourse and its reception by the viewer. In “Stars on flags of the world” a glass vitrine holds hundreds of steel stars, like those found on national flags from around the world. The piles of stars are reflective of the appropriation of this particular insignia in constructing a national identity and narrative- much like alphabets that are put together to form words. Although seemingly political, her works hold a wider conversation with a willing ear and keen eye.

Stars on Flags of the World, 2012, Mild Steel stars in a vitrine and an etched brass plate, 64x64x97 cm Image Credit:

Stars on Flags of the World, 2012, Mild Steel stars in a vitrine and an etched brass plate, 64x64x97 cm
Image Credit:

Regardless of the content and narrative of her works, Gupta is clear that her works are not simply ‘political’- a badge often pinned to works of art that comment on political and social scenarios. Her preoccupation is rather centered on the meaning of language. The multi layered contexts of her works not only point at the different tangents that they traverse, but their reception by the viewer also highlight the gamut of popular perception that a work encounters on its completion- the afterlife of the work. The viewers’ response is an integral part of her practice- sometimes evident and at other times concealed.

Shilpa Gupta’s “Threat”, first created in 2009, depicts a stack of bricks simulating a wall. The bricks are cast soap embossed with the word THREAT. The smell is powerfully soapy; it builds as you near the work. The work is performative- the viewer is encouraged to pick and take back a brick, this action depleting the ‘threat’- physically and symbolically. The degenerative and fleeting tactility of a bar of soap makes the viewer think of the emotional response to threat- sudden and strong, yet impermanent and short-lived.


Threat, Bathing Soaps, 2008-09,5.9x2.5x1.6 in | 15x6.2x4 cm each soap, 28.5x90x42 in | 72x229x107 cm stack of 4500 soaps Image Credit:

Threat, Bathing Soaps, 2008-09,5.9×2.5×1.6 in | 15×6.2×4 cm each soap, 28.5x90x42 in | 72x229x107 cm stack of 4500 soaps
Image Credit:

“2652-1”, being shown by the Tel Aviv gallery Dvir at Art Basel, recounts the number of steps the artist took between Al Aksa Mosque, the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Gupta assembled small photographs that she took while walking between the three sites, resulting in a thin 42-meter long canvas. The work highlights the physical proximity of these geographical locations juxtaposed with the political, religious and ideological schisms that creates separation between them. The process of globalization over the past decades is traced in varying doses in her works. Narratives of identity, nationhood, borders and boundaries and power relations are implicitly imbedded is the coded discourse of her multivalent works. It is this quality that makes her works relevant to a contemporary international audience of varying sensibilities.


2652-1, 2010, archival print on canvas, 42 meters x 4 cm Image Credit:

2652-1, 2010, archival print on canvas, 42 meters x 4 cm
Image Credit:

The artist has recently featured in a two-part film on contemporary Indian art entitled ‘Let the World in’.

Shilpa Gupta & Raqs Media Collective in Every Day Matters @ Faurschou Foundation Copenhagen

Tarika Agarwal of Saffronart contemplates what to expect from the upcoming exhibition ‘Every Day Matters’ at Faurschou Foundation in Copenhagen

Mumbai: ‘Every Day Matters @ Fairschou Foundation Copenhagen’ is a group exhibition of international contemporary artists. The exhibition will run for a period of three months starting from 14 March, 2013. If any of you are in Copenhagen during this time and have the opportunity to visit the show, I think it’s a definite must-see. I know I would.

The Faurschou Foundation is a privately funded art institution in Copenhagen that was established by Luise and Jens Faurschou. For 25 years now, they have presented exhibitions of internationally recognized artists both in Denmark and abroad. This exhibition represents artists from the Middle East, USA, Europe, South America and Asia. Among these are Shilpa Gupta and Raqs Media Collective.

Shilpa Gupta is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Mumbai. She studied sculpture at the Sir J. J. School of Fine Arts here, and is currently one the most respected contemporary women artists living and working in India today. She is an interdisciplinary artist who works with sound, video, photography and performance to capture, explore and understand themes like desire, religion and security (nations, militarism and identity).

Raqs Media Collective on the other hand is a group that was founded in the early 1990s by Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. They enjoy playing around with a plurality of roles often appear as artists, though sometimes also as curators and other times as philosophical agent provocateurs.

The title of the exhibition ‘Every Day Matters’ gives away a lot of what one can expect from this exhibition. It forms a framework for the artists to play with the idea of the fundamental condition that every day is important and that reality has forced its way into our lives and the artist’s lives as a necessity. In places with political unrest or socioeconomic turmoil and challenges that we face on a day to day basis, art is often influenced by these external factors. An artist’s individual needs and social commitments have a crucial influence on their works – through art they express themselves from the past and the present. I think it would be interesting to view the world from an artist’s perspective. Also, to see how their creativity and imagination works to create a masterpiece.

Since the works are not up for viewing on the Foundation’s website yet, I have picked a few interesting pieces by both the artists to give an idea of what you can expect from them while attending the exhibition.

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