Subodh Gupta

Idol Thief 2007
Oil on canvas
229cm x 268cm

Subodh Gupta

Born 1964 Khagaul, Bihar, India
Lives and works in New Delhi

Art is about life. So I make my work about myself and what I know – art is valuable because it is about experiences which have nothing in common with art. If you ask me why I find objects that Indians need to have when they are travelling long distances so appealing, I would say that I’m more interested in the representation those objects carry and the associations of hope and dreams that each piece is weighted with. I’ve often stopped over in the Gulf while going to Europe and met with many of these migrants. I got familiar with this issue, their life their dreams… At the airport, I was always struck by the number and the weight of the luggage these migrants bring back from the Gulf. They carry electronic goods, gifts for their family. These items are so valuable that they pack them very neatly and with love. The journey for each piece is long... once in Delhi, they travel across state borders and onto trains, many times checked and bribed along the way to reach home safely.
Subodh Gupta


Subodh Gupta’s art consciously plays on clichéd images of everyday life in India. While he works in a range of media, Gupta is known best for his sculptures made from accumulations of everyday objects such as antiquated machinery and stainless steel cooking utensils. Subodh Gupta’s inspiration stems from his early life in Bihar, India’s least economically developed state. His origins in this largely agrarian region have influenced the direction of his work as he reflects upon the difference existing in India between tradition and modernisation as the sub-continent develops economically. Subodh Gupta’s liking for ordinary objects suggests a concern for the deprivation of India’s under class in contrast to the accelerating wealth of the rising middle class. His painting Idol Thief 2007 depicts, in a super realist style, enlarged close ups of stainless steel food containers. The kind that are commonly used in India by workers to carry meals to and from work. Subodh Gupta’s paintings are an important part of his overall practice as an artist and Idol Thief sits perfectly within his general theme as an artist that of the rapid disappearance of simple agrarian life styles in India.