Subodh Gupta’s 'Sangam' brings an Indian flavour to an iconic French department store

At Le Bon Marché Paris, Subodh Gupta presents Sangam, a show of large-scale installations in his signature style, through the assembly of well-used utensils and daily-use objects.

by Vatsala SethiPublished on : Jan 18, 2023

Subodh Gupta's well-known art style involves turning pots and pans into sculptures, which he sees as a representation of practical Indian culture. For his signature series, he mostly works with steel, a synthetic substance composed of magnesium, iron, carbon, and other components that do not rust. Gupta, a prominent name in contemporary art, is the next artist to whom Le Bon Marché has given creative carte blanche inside its premises, which has already housed pieces by Ai Weiwei and Joana Vasconcelos since 2016. The artist has created original installation works for an exhibition titled, Sangam.

Installation view: Sangam, Subodh Gupta | Sangam| STIRworld
Installation view: Sangam Image: Courtesy of Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche

Utensils are included in the majority of Gupta's works, which does wonders for the artwork's longevity and makes it an excellent investment for collectors. But the Indian artist emphasised that his chosen medium has allowed him to continuously build a work that extends over several levels of narration by alluding to the cosmos through the assembly of well-used utensils. Gupta views kitchen tools as straightforward items that, when put together in his mind, speak of complex life's textures, subtleties, lines, and shadows, comparable to what one may see in their palms. “Do you remember the last meal you ate? How is it part of different contexts throughout your life, your community, and the society you grew up in? In which way do the way you eat a meal and the community-based act of sharing it, or not, reflect a story that is bigger than you?” the installation artist asks through the official statement.

The Proust Effect, aluminium sculpture, Subodh Gupta| Sangam| STIRworld
The Proust Effect, aluminium sculpture Image: Courtesy of Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche

Sangam, which means confluence, is a carefully selected title for this exhibition which consists primarily of large-scale installation works being showcased. The artist lends an Indian flavour to the French venue by doing so. In Hindu mythology, sangam refers specifically to the meeting point of three significant rivers, the Ganges, Yamuna, and Sarasvati. People have been making pilgrimages to this location for years as a form of worship. “This very simple word is the place in the north-east of India where three rivers with the name of three goddesses meet where many pilgrims come to submerge themselves in the water to purify themselves”, explains Gupta in the press note. The artist alludes to the fusion of new and old artefacts, two civilizations, two nations, and the fusion of art and commerce. Everyone has the chance to reflect on the intersection in which they find themselves. Through his art exhibition of home objects, the artist poses an extremely intriguing question to the spectators about their journey in a culture that prioritises consumerism.

 Wide view of Sangam installed at the Le Bon Marché | Sangam| STIRworld
Wide view of Sangam installed at the Le Bon Marché Image: Courtesy of Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche

Gupta is the eighth guest artist invited to participate in ‘January Carte Blanche' (blank document) organised by the Rive Gauche department store in Paris, France. “Le Bon Marché has chosen to showcase contemporary art each year since 2016, choosing major international artists like Ai Weiwei, Joanna Vasconcelos, and Prune Nourry. They are free to feature what they like, so long as they include white. This can be subjective, as is the case here with Gupta. White is a tribute to the “Mois du Blanc” – White Month – an idea our founders Aristide and Marguerite Boucicaut had which focuses on household linen”, explained Frédéric Bodenes, Art and Image Director of the Le Bon Marché Group, in the press note.

 Close-up view: The Proust Effect, aluminium sculpture, Subodh Gupta | Sangam| STIRworld
Close-up view: The Proust Effect, aluminium sculpture Image: Courtesy of Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche

Aside from that, what is it that this display reveals that the artist's prior, equally impressive art exhibition did not? In the ten window displays along the rue de Sèvres, installations are on display. The series of ten Stitching the code works, six of which are made of collected vintage furniture and objects bound in cords, reflect French culture and the artist's preference for repurposing everyday items for artistic purposes. These pieces incorporate ceramics, Indian sewing machines, and cutting boards with images of grapes, bananas, and other foods, among other materials. Under the glass roofs on either side of the escalators that made Andrée Putman famous, two enormous works are put up. Sangam I (Confluence I), a traditional Indian pot, and Sangam II (Confluence II), a large bucket styled like gleaming metal cooking utensils, will each pour forth a flow of mirrors that will reflect Le Bon Marché and its patrons in a variety of ways.

Portrait of Subodh Gupta | Sangam| STIRworld
Portrait of Subodh Gupta Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Gupta is India’s most celebrated artist. He came to prominence during the 2000s, the era of unstoppable ‘emerging markets,’ through the new circuit of art fairs that studded the earth to cater to the hyper-mobile winners of rapacious globalisation. In 2018, he was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct by an Instagram account Scene and Herd (under the handle @herdsceneand) under the #MeToo movement. Since then, this is Gupta’s second International exhibition at Galerie Continua. He recently showcased his works at Nature Morte Gallery’s exhibition titled, Cosmic Battles. He has been exhibited in France for more than 20 years in institutions (the Centre Pompidou, the Monnaie de Paris) and is represented in France by Galleria Continua.

Subodh Gupta’s work at Bon Marché Rive Gauche | Sangam| STIRword
Subodh Gupta’s work at Bon Marché Rive Gauche Image: Courtesy of Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche
Sangam by Subodh Gupta Image: Courtesy of naturemorte_delhi on Instagram

The exhibition took place from January 9, 2023, and will continue till February 19, 2023, at Le Bon Marché, Paris, France.

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