Subodh Gupta, from Indian daily life to grand art

A banyan tree in the courtyard of La Monnaie de Paris, “People tree”, 2018

What I love about Subodh Gupta’s exhibition at the Monnaie de Paris, is that he is obsessed with daily life and food. « Adda » (exchanges in hindi) is the first retrospective in France of this New Delhi based artist, who trained as a painter and now explores video, electricity installations and cooking instruments, with a great sense of humour and talent. The Louis XV th majestuous frame of La Monnaie de Paris, where official medals are still minted today, is in perfect adequation with his vernacular art and the thirty works shown here. He has also designed a medal.

“Vehicle for seven seas”, aluminum and bronze, 2004-2006

When you walk into the main living room under the 18 th century cupola, a huge skull welcomes you. « Very Hungry God » is the evocation of an increasingly universal voraciousness. It embodies the disturbing duality of excess opposed to the starvation of others. It was first shown in Paris in the Saint Bernard church occupied by illegal immigrants in 2006. But there is nothing morbid about it. It is glittering and reflecting the frescoes of the room for it is a composition of Indian aluminum cooking utensils.

Subodh Gupta at the opening last week

The artist was present at the opening and explained the importance of the kitchen and daily cooking in every Indian home. It is around meals that people discuss and communicate. I think this is particularly true around the world and certainly in France! One video “Sister”,  is particularly striking which features a dowry negotiation for a wedding and the festive dinner that follows. It does not matter how fierce the negotiation was for the daughter’s dowry, the meal that follows takes place as if both families had always been one and only friendly family.

Subodh Gupta had three sisters who got married and he knows the problem well.

“Sister”, 2005, Mixed installations, video and stainless steel utensils, Centre Pompidou

There is another major piece,” Jal Mein Kumbh”, a large wooden boat with water pots in it and hanging from it. It refers to deported people today but also at the time of the Indian partition in 1948, and the dramas that followed with Pakistan and Banga Desh. « Water is in the pot and the pot in the ocean, break the pot and waters merge, rarely do we ponder on this unification », a saying by Indian poet Kabir. This is the negation of people’s lives.

Jal Mein Kumbh, 2012

This show is based on the artist’s childhood in Bihar, and how he grew up with personal values and a sense of human priorities. Atta (dough) and a glass of water are shown at the entrance with a fountain for washing your hands before eating. Food is everything in India.

Wash before eating,  a fountain filled with mangoes, 2018

Subodh Gupta has become a major international artist with exhibitions at the MFA in Boston, Washington D.C., the V & A in London and Frankfurt’s Museum für Moderne Kunst. Yet, he remains completely devoted to his own people and country. The show is totally fascinating with a room with turning cooking instruments who dance around, many videos of daily life in New Delhi and a very special political vision of the future for our planet.

Very Hungry God, 2006, in the main room of al Monnaie de Paris

Until, August 26, at La Monnaie de Paris, 11 quai de Conti.

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