India’s number one contemporary artist consolidates his international appeal with a top honour from the French Ministry of Culture.

On 20 January 2013, the French government honoured Subodh Gupta with the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in recognition of the artist-sculptor’s “remarkable originality, inspired by the daily life of India on the move.”

Ambassador of France to India, Mr. François Richier confers the award of the “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters” on Mr. Subodh Gupta. Image courtesy of Embassy of France in India.

Ambassador of France to India, Mr. François Richier confers the award of the “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters” on Mr. Subodh Gupta. Image courtesy Embassy of France in India.

A sculptor, painter, installation artist and video producer, Gupta uses everyday objects like kitchen utensils, furniture and even cow dung, a common local domestic fuel, to recall the rural India of his childhood and highlight the country’s modernisation by exploring ideas of a changing India characterised by economic growth and a more materialistic mindset.

Local artist, global perspective

Despite a perceived focus on domestic concerns, Gupta has earned a reputation for transforming everyday Indian objects into artworks that resonate globallyDubbed the “Damien Hirst of Delhi“, his work has also been compared to that of Marcel Duchamp and Chris Ofili. He exhibited in both the Venice Biennale and London’s Frieze art fair in 2005, and has shown works in Japan, Miami, Lille and Moscow. In 2007, he was one of three Indians named in ArtReview‘s list of the 100 most powerful people in the art world.

Subodh Gupta, 'God Hungry', 2006. Image © Creative Commons.

Subodh Gupta, ‘God Hungry’, 2006. Image © Creative Commons.

French connection

The French government noted that Gupta’s links with France contributed to his selection for the award. On the website for the award, God Hungry (2006), an installation made of Indian kitchen vessels poured through the arches of a church in Lille that referenced the Indian tsunami of 2004, is singled out. Another of Gupta’s church installations, Very Hungry God (2006), was bought by French billionaire François Pinault, according to The Guardian. Gupta was also one of the most viewed artists at the Paris-Delhi-Bombay exhibition that was held at Centre Georges Pompidou in 2011.

Watch Subodh Gupta discussing “God Hungry” below.

Gupta is not the first artist of Indian heritage to receive the distinction. Mumbai-born sculptor Anish Kapoor was given the title of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2011; artist and writer Ram Kumar was made an Officer in 2003, and Hyderabad gallerist Prshant Lahoti was honoured in 2013 alongside Gupta.

About the Order of Arts and Letters

The Order of Arts and Letters, established in 1957 by the French Ministry of Culture, recognises significant contributions to arts and literature in France and throughout the world. The Order has three grades, the highest honour being Commander, followed by Officer and then Knight. With further contributions to the arts, members can earn higher titles.


Related Topics: Indian artists, sculpture, art prizes, awards and honours, installation art

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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