This is the sculpture that cannot be ignored. It is said to be 36 feet tall, both monumental and horrific in concept — Subodh Gupta’s ‘Line of Control’, is shaped like the mushroom clouds that followed the bombing of Hiroshima. Located in the foyer of the Kiran Nader Museum of Art in Saket, New Delhi, this monumental artwork has been drawing crowds, ever since it was installed about four months ago. At any given time in the day, you might see people just gazing in wonder at the unbelievable number of steel utensils that have come together in its creation, while others stand next to this huge artwork, just to be photographed.
According to the artist, his first drawings for this particular artwork were done in 1999, at a time “when India and Pakistan were on the brink of a nuclear war”. It is indeed a chilling thought and the everyday cooking utensils used in this installation, draws attention to the large number of common people who would be affected in such a nuclear war. The conceptualization of this piece came in 2005. but work was begun only in 2006.
‘Line of Control’ was seen earlier this year at the Triennale held at the Tate Modern at London and it was there that avid art collector Kiran Nader had her first glimpse of this amazing artwork. Determined to display it in her museum, she was willing to even knock down a wall so that it could fit into the chosen location. The sculpture which is made up of stainless steel utensils is said to weigh around 26 tonnes and stands 36 feet tall and is 36 feet at its widest point, filling the length and breadth of its allotted space. Nader has been quoted as having said, “the work appears to defy gravity with over 1,000 vessels suspended in the air”.
But bringing such a monumental sculpture all the way from Britain was a tough challenge. Only bringing it from the port to Delhi is said to have taken three months as well as requiring three cranes to lift and install the artwork. Luckily, the same crew who had installed the sculpture in London was on hand and carefully installed the14 different parts following a tried and tested sequence. Once installed, it instantly became the cynosure of all eyes and the most discussed topic in art circles.
Art critic and curator Rubina Karode, wrote “the work has been described as heroic, experimental and theatrical” — an excellent comment which fits the bill perfectly and is the essence of most of the work by this highly talented sculptor. Viewers at the Tate, were also said to have been stunned by its proportions and this continues to be the case and the reason for its being a major attraction for visitors to the museum.
Now feted across the world, Subodh Gupta’s has often been referred to as ‘India’s Damien Hirst’. Among the ‘favourites’ in today’s world of contemporary art, Subodh Gupta is in the enviable position of having achieved “almost a cult status in the art fraternity, especially abroad.”
One of his biggest moments came in 2008 when Gupta became the youngest Indian artist to enter the ‘million-dollar’ club, with his Saat Samundar Paar being sold at a Christie’s auction for $ 1.2 million (Rs.5.4 crores). Translated in English the title means “Across the Seven Seas” and the artwork created out of baggage trolleys seen at airports, highlighted the “historical reality of migration from India, especially from Gupta’s home State Bihar”. It was also a theme that struck an immediate chord with people from all over the world.