Mumbai-born artist Shilpa Gupta's sculptures, installations, and collaborative performances question and expand on social categories, seeking to connect people and nations.Read More
Born in Mumbai, Gupta studied sculpture at the Sir JJ School of Art, graduating in 1997. As a student, Gupta witnessed the Bombay riots of the early 1990s, which highlighted the internal divides of a post-Partition India.
These experiences would inform her later works, which are often collaborative and related to boundaries, signposts, and the labels affixed to people and places.
Shilpa Gupta's artworks investigate social and individual perception by questioning notions of belonging, boundaries, and place. Gupta often works across participatory projects, which incorporate performance, installation, video, and sculpture.
This collaborative process can be noted in early works like Untitled (1995—1996), for which the artist anonymously sent 300 drawings to a list of contacts from a local gallery.
Addressing the conflict between India and Pakistan in Kargil and the War on Terror in the United States, Gupta's 2002 performance Blame saw the artist sell small red bottles of packaged 'blame' to commuters as a soothing commodity for our times.
On the label of each bottle, lines of text read 'BLAMING YOU MAKES ME FEEL SO GOOD / so I blame you for what You Cannot Control / YOUR RELIGION / YOUR NATIONALITY'.
Similarly, Gupta's participatory installation Threat featured a wall of soap inscribed with the word 'THREAT'. Viewers were encouraged to take the soap home, alluding to the discrepancy between permanent beliefs and the impermanence of the material world.
Gutpa's animated light installation I live under your sky too (2004—ongoing) shows the sentence woven together from English, Hindi, and Urdu, partially lit up and installed under the open sky, alternating between the three languages.
There is No Border here (2005—2006) alludes to the artificial construction of borders and possible alternatives. In the work, a wall drawing made from adhesive tape inscribed with the sentence 'There is No Border Here' forms a bright yellow flag, with a first line that reads: 'I tried very hard to cut the sky in half... But the sky kept moving...'.
'I am interested in the interpretations that ensue via the play of agency and power—what to edit, mute and exaggerate, and what to remember and recall', Gupta told Ocula Magazine in a 2021 conversation.
Accordingly, the sound installation For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit (2018) resurrected the voices of 100 poets who were imprisoned for their beliefs. The recordings played from microphones suspended above sheets of poetry impaled by metal rods, returning the lost voices to the space.
Gupta is a recipient of the International Artist of the Year Award, South Asian Visual Artists Collective; the Sanskriti Prathisthan Award; and the Transmediale Award (all 2004). She was also awarded the 2011 Bienal Award from the Bienal De Cuenca and the YFLO Titan Young Women Achievers Award (2012—2013).
Shilpa Gupta's works have shown widely in Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the U.K.
Select solo exhibitions include Barbican Centre, London (2021); Dallas Contemporary (2021); Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin (2021); MUHKA, Antwerp (2021); Yarat Contemporary Art Center, Baku (2018); Kiosk, Ghent (2017); Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2014); and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano (2014).
Select group exhibitions include Kunsthalle Praha, Prague (2022); Neon, Athens (2021); Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai (2021); Boras Art Biennial, Sweden (2021); Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2020); 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Museum of the Modern Art, New York (2018); Gwangju Biennale (2018); Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2018); and Edinburgh Art Festival (2018).
Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2022