In anticipation of his October show at Hauser & Wirth in London, the Financial Times looks at Subodh Gupta and his collecting base:
His slick, intelligent use of homespun materials reflects the tipping point of India’s economic transformation but also strikes a chord with international art audiences. Gupta’s installation of cooking utensils made waves at London’s Frieze Art Fair in 2005, and “in a metallic flash everything changed”, says Lucian Harris of The Art Newspaper. “His monumental 1,000kg skull made of pots and pans, ‘Very Hungry God’, which French billionaire François Pinault placed outside his Palazzo Grassi gallery in Venice, became one of the must-see attractions at the 2007 Biennale.”
The artist is keen, however, to keep a “healthy distance” from patrons. But he emphasises: “I respect Pinault and [the late French film-maker Claude] Berri. They have money and they collect art. Four or five people in India are among the richest in the world but they have no passion for supporting art. We only have the Poddars who are sharing their collection.”
But Poddar, and other collectors such as the Mumbai-based art advisor Amrita Jhaveri, are an exception; in general, the dearth of committed contemporary art buyers in India poses a dilemma for domestic dealers. “In India, there are very few serious contemporary collectors,” said an exasperated Peter Nagy, who runs Nature Morte gallery in the Indian capital.
However, foreign buyers were quick to spot the potential of Gupta and his compatriot artists. These include Gupta’s wife Bharti Kher, TV Santosh, Sudarshan Shetty and Jitish Kallat. British buyers include Frank Cohen and Charles Saatchi, who plans a show of Indian art at his Chelsea space early next year. The clamour for work by Gupta came to a head in June 2008 when his untitled circular installation of stainless steel tiffin utensils (2007) fetched £601,250 at Christie’s in London, and his “Still Steal Steel #9” painting (2008) went to a European collector for €450,000 at Frieze in October.
Indian Art’s Bumpy Ride in the Market (Financial Times)