On the occasion of its annual carte blanche offered to a contemporary artist, the Bon Marché invites Subodh Gupta to invest its space until February 19 with a new project. Among the pieces exhibited by the Indian artist in the department store, a huge pot pours out a cascade of mirrors, transporting the public to Sangam, a place of worship and pilgrimage in northeast India.
On either side of the escalators Cheaptwo huge shiny aluminum containers pour into the center of the department store a cascade of mirrors among the corners of luxury perfume and cosmetics houses. While on the second floor, a hut made of recycled pots contrasts with the clothing displays installed just next door… Designed by the Indian artist Subodh Guptathese two surprising monumental installations are part of the eighth carte blanche of the department store, which since 2016 has invited major figures from the contemporary art scene to exhibit works created for the occasion in its spaces. In 2019, a half-insect half-octopus creature imagined by the Portuguese Joana Vasconcelos meandered between the escalators, while two years later, the Frenchwoman Nourry Plum invaded space with a huge bow and a giant target or again, just a year ago, the Turk Mehmet Ali Uysal deployed two huge icebergs right in the middle of the ceilings… Spectacular installations, which are in the same vein as the one Subodh Gupta is presenting this year. Composed of kitchen utensils assembled in such a way as to respectively take the form of an XXL bucket and a traditional Indian pot – a motif with which the 59-year-old artist became known in the early 2000s – these two immense sculptures plunge the visitor into the rivers of Sangam, a place of worship and pilgrimage in northeastern India, making this exposure one of his most imposing projects to date, for its dimensions but also its production methods.
Bon Marché escalators topped with XXL buckets
If Subodh Gupta is used to designing large installations in places steeped in history and character such as the Paris Mintwhich notably hosted during its personal exhibition in 2018 a huge skull in its hall of honor as well as an aluminum weeping willow in its inner courtyard, the carte blanche offered by the Cheap to the artist presented him with new challenges, linked in particular to his visitors. “The public of the place is totally different from the one I address in general, entrusts the fifty-year-old to Number, because the people who will visit the store are not necessarily those who go to museums or art galleries”. His project therefore had to meet two main challenges: to adapt to the particular architecture of the store as well as to its public. To do this, the plastic surgeon thought of this exposure like a pilgrimage and invested, in addition to the escalators, the ten windows of the rue de Sèvres with pieces of furniture and everyday objects enclosed in ropes, as well as the second floor, where he installed a suspended hut inviting to meditation. Usually constrained by the routes of classic exhibition venues, the visitor to the Cheapnow partially transformed into a space ofartof exploration and wonder, is thus very free in its wanderings, being able as well to immerse itself in the work of Subodh Gupta by visiting these different spaces than continuing his walk without worrying about it.
Artist Subodh Gupta transforms Le Bon Marché into a sacred and spiritual place
Impregnated by his theater studies, Subodh Gupta considered this news works of art for the Cheap like a performance. “The whole work plays a role in which I myself participate” – that of mediator between the thousands of visitors to this place, who pass each other without ever meeting. Because guided by their curiosity, surprise or interest, they end up finding themselves around the large silver installations. Inspired by Sangamconfluence of north-eastern India where the three most sacred rivers of the country meet, which gives its title to the exhibition, the visual artist transposes this place charged with mysticism and spirituality within the big store. “With all these people who come from all over the world, meet in one place and form a kind of human tide, Le Bon Marché reminds me a lot of Sangam”, justifies the man now based between Delhi and Paris. As projected into a multidimensional parallel universe, the interior of the parisian building history and its public are reflected on the dozens of mirrors that make up the sculptures and multiply to infinity, allowing you to discover it from new angles. The experience of the visit also takes on a playful aspect, allowing for example a visitor on the ground floor to see a visitor on the first floor in the many facets of the sculpture, and vice versa.
“In India, the “sangam” also translates a spiritual encounter.” – Subodh Gupta
Subodh Gupta nonetheless wishes to clarify its intentions: “itis the symbolism of the place that inspired me, more than its religious dimension. In India, the “sangam” also translates a spiritual encounter between two people, several thousand or within ourselves.”. An idea of meeting that the installation precisely explores by overlooking the multitude of visitors from very different backgrounds and cultures, who have not necessarily gone to the Cheap to admire its facilities. “VSIt is precisely in these places that art can surprise, amaze, because you do not expect to come across it there, rejoices the plastic surgeon. Even if visitors do not necessarily understand my work, unconsciously, the exhibition impacts their minds.”
In the midst of all the commotion Cheap, Subodh Gupta also wishes, with his works, to initiate a dialogue between Paris and his country of origin. This dialogue, the artist began it from the production of his sculptures for which he brought backIndia – of Sangam, more precisely – of utensils of kitchen which he assembled with others recovered in Île-de-France, witnesses of French craftsmanship. “The objects I use also address this theme of encounter”, he adds, in order to bring together these two countriest their cultures.” So regularly, the big store asks its artists to use the color white for their installations to match its luminous interior architecture, Subodh Gupta chose as the dominant color the one he has been using since his beginnings: the silver of the aluminum and the utensils. The white, however, appears through the fragments of the place reflected in the mirrors, evoking to the artist “the white of our mind, close to a blank canvas on which the exhibition is printed.”
Monumental works of art made up of kitchen utensils
When questioning Subodh Gupta on the recurring use of kitchen utensils in his works, his answer is as simple as it is spontaneous: pbecause I love to cook!”. But this culinary passion is also one of the common points between the Indian and French cultures, which responds to his desire to cross between East and West. This meeting between culinary arts and visual arts extends to the second floor of the Cheapon which the artist has installed a suspended hut entirely composed of pans titled Tea Proust Effect, in reference to the famous madeleine of the French writer. A spiritual encounter, once again, that he wishes to provoke inside each visitor, immersing him in his culinary memory to trigger a buried memory there. The artist explores this link with kitchen indian from his first creations, fascinated since childhood by the shiny appearance of kitchen utensils. In addition to the material and the object itself, the titles of his works follow this line: in 2006, he installed an immense human skull entirely made up of saucepans which he entitled Very Hungry God (hungry god) on the Grand Canal of Venice on the occasion of the Biennial of contemporary art, or erected in ten years later a pot overflowing with silver containers in front of the Victoria & Albert Museum from London.
The carte blanche offered by the Cheap at Subodh Gupta also allows him to affirm his very strong link with Paris, where he has lived partially for almost twenty years. Knighted in the Order of Arts and Letters in 2013, the artist considers that France has offered him opportunities that no other country has yet granted him: “when I am here, I‘hasi feel that Parisians really respect and appreciate my work”, he confides. Through its unprecedented ambition and its specifications, this new exhibition also has a turning point in its production by bringing the 50-year-old, accustomed to working in a very intuitive and spontaneous way, to modify his creative process by adapting it to the project. Within the studio allocated by the store to the artist and his team, The Factory, located in Jouy in Eure-et-Loir, the design of the project evolved day after day, taking into account the constraints imposed by the architecture of the building and the imposing size that its sculptures would take. A difficult bet accomplished with flying colors by Subodh Guptato be discovered since January 9 by surveying all the floors of the Cheap to observe it from all sides, from all angles and in all its reflections.
Subodh Gupta, “Sangam”, until February 19 at the Bon Marché Rive Gauche, Paris 7th.