b. 1974, India

Nikhil Chopra Biography

Nikhil Chopra is an Indian contemporary artist based in Goa, India. Chopra's art—a complex amalgam of durational performance, painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography—critically explores issues relating to identity, politics, history, and the body.

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Born in Kolkata to a Kashmiri family, after attaining a degree in commerce, Chopra began studying fine arts. After first completing a BFA at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in 1999, he moved to the United States to further pursue his studies. He completed an MFA at Ohio State University in 2003.

At the core of Nikhil Chopra's art are theatricality and performance. The body becomes a tool and canvas for art. He is best known for durational performances in which he takes on the persona of different characters, inspired by personal familial history and broader national, regional, and colonial histories. The paintings, drawings, and other objects these actions create are a residual component—the object legacy—of the performance.

Chopra's most reprised roles include Sir Raja—a figure loosely inspired by the affluent westernised Indian princes of the British Raj period and the artist's own instilled upper-class sensibilities—and Yog Raj Chitrakar, who presents as a well-travelled, turn-of-the-century landowner and draughtsman, and is partially inspired the artist's grandfather.

Typically over several days, the artist in such personae will engage in both everyday actions (eating, washing, dressing) and the creation of large-scale landscape paintings or charcoal drawings that become a locally inspired contextual backdrop. An accompanying journey of character changes is expressed in costume and make-up changes. A literal journey also may take place, as the artist incorporates the local people and places in the performance.

In Nikhil Chopra's 'Memory Drawing' series (2007–ongoing) the artist pitches his tent in various cities, usually in a museum or gallery space. As the silk-and-tweed-donning Chitrakar character he performs while exploring the city to sketch sites that embody its reality, history, and contradictions. The process inverts the orientalist perspective, whereby the Western traveller making documents of the East to take home becomes the Eastern traveller making documents of the West to take home.

Chopra explained to Studio International, 'The labour is also the work: I like to show the slow unravelling of my process.' The theatrical characters and their various social, cultural, and gender transformations engage with the ideas and influences inherent in that process of creation and the subjects (the setting) of these works. They are an existential expression of the fluid mental states of identity, nationhood, and gender, and the performance highlights drawing and painting as a personal and political act.

Nikhil Chopra has performed and exhibited his art before a global audience since the mid-2000s. His art has featured in gallery and institutional shows, art fairs, and other major art events worldwide. In the live performance Lands, Waters, and Skies (2019), the artist worked in the galleries of The Metropolitan Museum of Art for nine consecutive days, adopting various personae and critically engaging with the museum's collection and its organisational principles.

Chopra co-founded the artist-run residency HH Art Spaces in 2014 with his wife Madhavi Gore—a fellow performance artist—and the French performance artist Romain Loustau.

Nikhil Chopra Solo Exhibitions include:

Lands, Waters, and Skies, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2019); Drumsolo at The Mill Galleria Continua / Les Moulins, France (2016); Blackening V, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi (2013); Coal on Cotton, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2013); Yog Raj Chitrakar: Memory Drawing IX, New Museum, New York (2009); Sir Raja III, Kitab Mahal, Mumbai (2005).

Nikhil Chopra Group Exhibitions include:

Soft Power, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2019); Bhairav, New Art Exchange, Nottingham (2017); Rebirth of Detail, Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts (2013); Paris, Delhi, Bombay, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2011); Production Site: The Artist's Studio Inside Out, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2010); CHALO INDIA!, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2008); Beings and Doings, Queen's Gallery, The British Council, New Delhi (2007).

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021

Nikhil Chopra Featured Artworks

Blackening V by Nikhil Chopra contemporary artwork photography
Nikhil Chopra Blackening V, 2013 Photographic print (edition of 3) on archival paper, as part of the installation which includes a slide show & costume
Variable dimensions
Jonathan Smart Gallery Contact Gallery
Blackening V by Nikhil Chopra contemporary artwork photography
Nikhil Chopra Blackening V, 2013 Photographic print (edition of 3) on archival paper, as part of the installation which includes a slide show & costume
Variable dimensions
Jonathan Smart Gallery Contact Gallery

Nikhil Chopra Recent Exhibitions

Nikhil Chopra In Related Press

Indian Artists Look Westward and Homeward, at the Queens Museum Related Press Indian Artists Look Westward and Homeward, at the Queens Museum 14 June 2015, New York Times

In 1997, Jane Farver, the farsighted and much-loved American curator who died in April in Venice, put together an influential exhibition called “ Out of India: Contemporary Art of the South Asian Diaspora ” at the Queens Museum. It was one of the few surveys of its kind in the United States up to that time, and Ms. Farver was...

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'Cultural feeding frenzy': Art world descends on Cuba for Havana Biennial Related Press 'Cultural feeding frenzy': Art world descends on Cuba for Havana Biennial 29 May 2015, Los Angeles Times

Rosa Lowinger has been getting the invitations at a rate of two a day. The Los Angeles-based sculpture conservator, who writes frequently on Cuba and leads art and architectural tours of the country, is in the Cuban capital for the opening of the latest edition of the Havana Biennial. And the mood, she says, is frenetic. Friday marked the...

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Sharjah Biennial 12: A March Through the City Related Press Sharjah Biennial 12: A March Through the City 6 April 2015, MutualArt

A performance titled Fanfare funérailles, conceptualized and performed by the Congolese dancer and choreographer Papy Ebotani, and based on a text by young Congolese writer and choreographer Dorine Mokha, took place on March 6 as one of the opening events of the 12th Sharjah Biennial. As one UAE-based art critic described it, “With this...

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10 Artists to Watch Out for at the 2015 Art Dubai Related Press 10 Artists to Watch Out for at the 2015 Art Dubai 4 March 2015, Condé Nast Traveller

When the ninth edition of Art Dubai kicks off on 18 March 2015, it will bring together the opulent, the cryptic and the contemplative in one place. One of the most important cultural events in the Gulf, Art Dubai features exhibitions, workshops, interactions and more. Over 90 galleries from the UAE and elsewhere will feature some of the finest...

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