India's Got Game


China’s not a Superpower,’ and ‘Can India be Great?‘ are some of the topics that have been stirring up some good reader debate for us recently. But when it comes to art, it seems that each ‘pending’ world power is standing its ground-for now.

I’ve already mentioned on several occasions China’s thriving art market, especially in the arena of art auctions. But according to a recent article in the Deccan Herald, (‘Year of revival’) India’s also ‘managed to hold its own’ in the arena, ‘especially on the global stage,’ despite the economic downturn. And according the piece, this measure can be attributed to several factors, including younger artists gaining more visibility on the world stage and thus making more profits on their work, and the expansion of the domestic art scene through new galleries and a boom in large-scale art fairs.

A fine example of this is Delhi-based contemporary artist Subodh Gupta who, despite being virtually unknown in the global art community in the earlier half of the decade, has become something of an overnight success. Gupta’s work has reportedly quadrupled in value over just the past five years and has been sold to eager buyers at auction houses across all the major global art hotspots including Paris and New York.

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I’m myself a fan of Gupta, a 45-year old Indian whose work crosses over the mediums of sculpture, painting, photography, installation and performance art. Coming from a modest background, he now specializes in using common everyday objects in his pieces to reflect the current major social and economic transformations of India. I remember being stunned by his giant skull creation that made quite a mark at the 2007 Venice Biennale, made of various stainless steel kitchen items. Apparently the piece, called ‘Very Hungry God,’ was inspired by the sadhus (wandering Hindu monks) of India who are rumoured to place symbolic significance on the human skull.

And on why he tends to use such materials for his art, Gupta has pointed out a certain social irony surrounding them: ‘The poor, the middle class and the rich use (them) at home. In this country, how many people have the utensils but they starve because there is no food?’

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