Subodh Gupta’s ‘rickshaw art’ on display at Delhi mall

M_Id-webAfter unveiling famed artist Subodh Gupta’s colossal work in steel “Line Of Control” last year, a city-based private museum seems to be redrawing the map of public art in the Capital, by putting on display another of his iconic installation at a plush mall here.

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) has put on a month-long display another of Gupta’s leading signature work titled “Cheap Rice”, an installation work with bronze, metal over a standing rickshaw, with is already attracting visitors’ attention at premises of a mall in South Delhi.

“In our continuous bid to make art more accessible to people, we have decided to install Subodh’s iconic rickshaw art work at the mall here for a month. And, after ‘Line of Control’ last year, we are trying to redefine the whole public art philosophy,” Director and Chief Curator, KNMA, Roobina Karode told PTI.

Made in 2006 and one of Gupta’s most iconic expressions using household utensils and metal, “Cheap Rice” tells a poignant tale of India’s poverty drawing metaphors from the daily hard life of a rickshaw puller, as also it makes an oblique commentary on the ancient ‘pind daan’ rituals, which involve rice.

In the installation, a standing rickshaw is overloaded with a huge heap of lotas (small metallic pots), used mostly in villages, small town and by relatively poorer people. Apart from the overflowing pots consuming the seating space, a few lotas are seen hanging from the steering handle too. And, the effect the arrangement creates is quite visceral.

“He (Gupta) was in Varanasi when he saw this, a rickshaw-wallah pulling an overloaded heap of lotas and he said he could never get that image out of his head, which is where his inspiration comes from,” says Karode.

“And, lotas are also intrinsic part of their lives, as also to hold a grain like rice, especially on auspicious occasions. And, since Subodh is from Bihar, he also has drawn parallel with the ‘pind daan’ rituals that take place in the Gaya district there where a small cake (pind) of rice is offered as a route to achieve ‘moksha’ for their ancestors,” she added.

And, hence for a metropolitan city like Delhi, these arts hold such “deeper narrative to ponder and reflect upon” where “inequalities exist in glaring proportions”.
Gupta’s previous work “Line of Control”, made in 2008, where a mushroom cloud made out of steel household utensils in a symbolic giant explosion stands in the central foyer of the South Court mall where it was unveiled almost about a year ago, was triggered by the 1999 Indo-Pak Kargil war images and “the world not needing another Hiroshima”.

The 49-year-old internationally renowned artist recently also garnered much praise for his work at the India Art Fair 2013 with his signature steel installation titled “Mirror Stage” carried by an Italian gallery, Galleria Continua.

“I don’t work just for a fair. I have other works on which I continuously work on and art fairs like these only display a part of my collective oeuvre which is much deeper than what people see” Gupta said earlier.

Born in 1964 in Khagaul, a railway town on the outskirts of Patna, Gupta attended the Patna College of Arts and Crafts from 1983-88. And after graduation is now based in Delhi-NCR.

Dubbed as India’s ‘Damien Hirst’, his works have been exhibited at prestigious art spaces and museum and have adorned various public spaces too, around the world. Among his other iconic work is the ‘Very Hungry God’ a skull made lot of steel utensils which almost made him a household name in the contemporary art circuit.

Much of his work is inspired from his life back in Bihar where he grew up observing the daily lives and commonplace objects, images which he’d later harness and fashion into a big-ticket selling art.

Kirna Nadar Museum of Art, opened in 2010 is India’s first philanthropic private museum headed by Kiran Nadar, an avid collector and wife of IT captain Shiv Nadar of HCL Technologies Limited. KNMA is run under the Shiv Nadar Foundation.

Focused on bridging the disconnect between art and the public and enhancing museum-going culture in India, the museum aspires to become a place for confluence, through its curatorial initiative and exhibitions, school and college workshops, art appreciation discourses, symposiums and public programs, says Karode.

Kunal Dutt

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