Shilpa Gupta: Perceiving and creating the world


Shilpa Gupta is an Indian born and based artist of international repute who contributes to the ‘India: Art Now’ exhibition at Arken Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 18 August 2012 to 13 January 2013.

In this interview, Shilpa Gupta explains her artwork, how the culture of consuption has shaped her artwork and the role of the audience.


By Stine Høholt


“I am interested in perception and therefore the creation of knowledge and aspiration in our daily lives. This includes several variables, as you say; it could be an object we desire in a shop window, the way we look or make assumptions regarding a particular group or community. Looking at the installation Shadow 3, the self is the shadow of the viewer. I am interested in the self as a container and processor of the memories, information, knowledge, and aspirations that are implicated, depending on his or her context.”


In what ways is globalization a defining issue in your art practice?


I would say, a number of interlinked things define my art practice and starting off in the 1990s has influenced my works in a certain way. It was in the nineteen-nineties, the government opened up the markets, and all of a sudden goods and commodities were flowing and flying in. From black-and-white TV and VHS we all of a sudden had sixty channels and high-speed Internet. This was also a time when we saw the rise of the right wing which led to sectarian violence in 1992 and 2002. I remember climbing onto my terrace and seeing smoke from a neighborhood burning, not so far away, walking through the so-called martyrs graveyard in Srinagar, where several young men and boys lay. I remember watching images of the World Trade Center attack, almost live on the Internet and then over the following years seeing the rise of security guards on my streets in Mumbai—the same streets where Gucci and Louis Vuitton have followed McDonald’s. Images, moments, accidents leave an impression and then from one work to another one extends querying and its understanding.


The moment we enter the installation, Shadow 3, which is exhibited at ARKEN, we become participants. Firstly, we are directly involved in the work, participating in its creation. Secondly, we seem to perform our own identity—or lack of identity, since we are swept away, overloaded with goods. Which role does participation play in your art?


I am interested in the multiple meanings which an object can embody, and in the shift that can take place from different positions—from extreme close up or from a distance. I am interested in the blurring of authorship of a work and in the process of understanding an object when it transits into different zones. Participation allows some of these encounters to take place.


What is the status of your country in your art?


I would like to bring up here the series 100 Hand-drawn Maps of India (2007–08), which is a series I have been working on in different geographies, where I ask a hundred people to each draw a map of their country. As it turns out, none of them match. Nation states are rather young definitions and can hardly be singular definitions of groups that have been around for much longer. More so in the current, rather “glocal” situation, where geography can hardly be the only overarching way of looking at people. In my interactive work, Speaking Wall, there is a paragraph that says:

Is the place you come from
The place you were born
Or the place you grew up
Or the place you inhabit


Portrait of Shilpa Gupta: Courtesy of the artist


Shilpa Gupta (b.1976) lives and works in Mumbai, India where she has studied sculpture at the Sir J. J. School of Fine Arts from 1992 to 1997. Gupta creates artwork using interactive video, websites, objects, photographs, sound and public performances to probe and examine subversively such themes as desire, religion, notions of security on the street and on the imagined border.


Shortcuts to indian contemporary art 

Find out more about what is happening on the Indian art scene right now – links to galleries, museums and press coverage dealing with Indian art:


18 AUGUST 2012 – 13 JANUARY 2013

In the autumn of 2012 ARKEN is devoting its whole special exhibition area to a comprehensive presentation of Indian contemporary art. Over the past decade India has made its mark as one of the most vital and innovative centres of contemporary art. With great creativity and intellectual depth a new generation of artists is reacting to the rapid changes typifying the globalized cities of the world’s largest democracy.

is a wide-ranging presentation of the new art of India with a whole array of related activities such as lecture evenings, educational processes for children and the young, and a festival programme of Indian films at the Copenhagen Film Festival.

The project is associated with a research programme at ARKEN on contemporary art and migration, which will result in a conference and a book.

The artists in the exhibition lose themselves in the chaos of urban life or seek out a quieter, inner life. They describe the dreams of a new generation and expose social conflicts. With paintings, sculptures, photography, installations and interactive art the exhibition offers unique insight into the aesthetic spectrum within which artists today are interpreting our existence on the borderline between the local and the global.

The prominent artists and artist groups of the exhibition at ARKEN are Rina Banerjee, Hemali Bhuta, Atul Dodiya, Sheela Gowda, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Jitish Kallat, Reena Kallat, Rashmi Kaleka, Bharti Kher, Ravinder Reddy, Vivan Sundaram and Thukral & Tagra.

Read more:

The exhibition is supported by Holck-Larsen Fonden and part of the huge project and festival India Today Copenhagen Tomorrow.



18 AUGUST 2012 – 13 JANUARY 2013

The Indian fashion scene has experienced a global breakthrough in recent years. 

Over the past ten years a brand new fashion scene has grown up in India, where we see young Indian designers challenging and experimenting with the traditional dress culture. They are transforming Indian fashion with sophisticated style experiments and pushing the envelope of what Indian fashion can be. Elegantly or teasingly, the creations of the young designers build bridges between the local and the global, between past and present.

ARKEN is showing colourful, witty, imaginative, sculptural and experimental creations by the seven most prominent young designers: Morphe by Amit Aggarwal, Little Shilpa, Manish Arora, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Prashant Verma, Varun Sardana and 11.11 by Cell DSGN.

Read more:

The exhibition is supported by Holck-Larsen Fonden and part of the huge project and festival India Today Copenhagen Tomorrow.



Share on Facebook

Latest articles

Popular keywords

agriculture architecture bicycles business city planning climate co-creation corruption crafts creativity Denmark design education fashion film food genetic research Grundtvig happiness heritage India india_denmark innovation interview lifestyle literature management culture media museums music peace performing arts research science and research social responsibility sustainability Søren Kierkegaard technology theatre tourism video visual arts welfare wind power youth