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  • Provenance

    Arario Gallery, Beijing; acquired from the above by the previous owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    "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. These pots are like something sacred, part of important rituals, and I buy them in a market. They think I have a shop, and let them think it. I get them wholesale."
    (Subodh Gupta, quoted in C. Mooney, 'The Idol Thief', ArtReview, issue 17 December2007)
    As undeniably India's most celebrated and well-known contemporary artist, Subodh Gupta incorporates in his artistic practice everyday objects that are ubiquitous throughtout his native India. Working across an eclectic range of media including sculpture, installation, painting, photography, performance and video, Gupta culls his imagery from such ordinary items as the steel tiffin boxes used by millions to carry their lunch, as well as the thali pans, bicycles and milk pails found in abundance throughout the subcontinent to create an oeuvre which deals resonantly with the economic transformation of India. Largely autobiographical Gupta's work reflects his memories of a childhood spent learning India's rich and varied cultural traditions and rituals. The result is a dazzling tour de force in which appropriated everyday objects are turned into artistic icons, with their former meanings and functions dissolved.
    The Present lot, Idol Theif 1, is a monumental billboard-like hyperrealist canvas in which a myriad of stainless steel kitchen pots and pans seem to be falling and tumbling through space. As one of the standouts works from his acclaimed 2006 Idol thief series, the present lot is a masterful contemporary rendition of that age-old artistic tradition attempted by all great painters, the still life genre. Indeed, in addition to sharing a similar subject matter of domestic-ware, Idol Thief 1 is compositionally and tonally suggestive of the Italian modern master Giorgio Morandi. Another clear reference is the American Pop artist James Rosenquist and his long horizontal paintings of banal everyday imagery, shown tightly cropped and in extreme closeup. Turning to Gupta's contemporaries, the shimmering of the utensils' highly reflective surfaces gives Idol Thief 1 a sumptuous sense of luxury and craft reminiscient of the work of his fellow art world luminaries, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.
    What is most fascinating about Gupta's art is that while other South Asian artists ironize or sentimentalize Indian iconography and stereotypes, Gutpa successfully transforms them into recognisable trademarks. If Mondrian owns geometry, Beuys felt and Duchamp urinals, then Gupta owns cow-dung patties, milk buckets, cooking pots tiffin carriers. As the art historian Peter Nagy explains, 'Subodh is very good at selecting icons and symbols. There is something of the way Ghandi worked here. Ghandi used the very simple elements of salt or homespun cotton to overturn a colonial empire. Subodh uses pots, bicycles and milk pails to talk about the great changes occuring in India today'.

18

Idol Thief

2006
Oil on canvas.
196.9 x 365.1 cm (77 1/2 x 143 3/4 in).
Signed in Hindi and dated 'Subodh Gupta 06' on the reverse.

Estimate
£320,000 - 380,000 

BRIC Theme Sale

23-24 April 2010
London