He is the most unlikely priest of high art from Bihar to have earned a name for himself in the world of contemporary Art. Subodh Gupta (born in 1964) is a Bihari artist based in New Delhi. He was born in Khagaul,land famous for ancient mathematician Aryabhatta in Patna. He studied at the College of Art, Patna in 1983 – 1988, before moving to New Delhi where he currently lives and works.
Gupta is a passionate Bihari, he was one of the first prominent Bihari to auction his work for Bihar flood relief. Even today Gupta stands out for his native Bihari simplicity and original ideas. He recently appeared on CNN and his interview gives great insight about how he is inspired by his growing up years in Bihar and impact of cultural milieu on his work.
Gupta is best known for incorporating everyday objects that are ubiquitous throughout India, such as the steel tiffin boxes used by millions to carry their lunch as well as thali pans, bicycles, and milk pails. From such ordinary items the artist produces sculptures that reflect on the economic transformation of his homeland and which relate to Gupta’s own life and memories.
As Gupta says: ‘All these things were part of the way I grew up. They are used in the rituals and ceremonies that were part of my childhood. Indians either remember them from their youth, or they want to remember them. And: ‘I am the idol thief. I steal from the drama of Hindu life. And from the kitchen – these pots, they are like stolen gods, smuggled out of the country. Hindu kitchens are as important as prayer rooms.
Gupta transforms the icons of Indian everyday life into artworks that are readable globally. He is among a generation of young Indian artists whose commentary tells of a country on the move, fuelled by boiling economic growth and a more materialistic mindset. Gupta’s strategy of appropriating everyday objects and turning them into artworks that dissolve their former meaning and function brings him close to artists like Duchamp; The Guardian called him ‘the Damien Hirst of Delhi. He succeeds in finding an art language that references India and at the same time can be appreciated for its aesthetic throughout world; as Gupta says: ‘Art language is the same all over the world. Which allows me to be anywhere.
Gupta is among few Indian artists who have made meteoric rise during the past few years. One of his paintings sold at a whopping Rs 4.28 crore at a recent art auction at Gurgaon, where bidders from 32 countries competed with one another for 100-odd works of art by Indian contemporaries.