Spit or Swallow? Bharti Kher’s sperm-shaped bindi artworks wriggle into two big circles, asking if you want to answer. Subodh Gupta’s famous stainless steel formations of tongs and mini cans are countered by his Damien Hirst-inspired fibre-glass cow Rani, painted fuchsia by request to invoke the legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland’s throwaway remark, “Pink is the navy blue of India.”
Jeetandar Ojha’s recreation of a man’s flayed skin goes straight back to Anish Kapoor’s shocking sculpture (frightening red tubes without end) of the flayed Greek youth, Marsiyas.
Such teasing resonances dance in and out of five gallery spaces in an interesting Gurgaon building clad with iron sides like that of a ship. They offer but a teaser of the 700-plus contemporary Indian works of art, personally owned by one young man of 34: Anupam Poddar.
A team of 19 students at the School of Art and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, led by their teachers Kavita Singh, Shukla Sawant and Naman Ahuja, put the show together for Poddar and wrote the catalogue. Officially, it’s the Lekha and Anupam Poddar Collection, in tribute to Poddar’s mother who influenced him towards an interest in art.
Poddar embarked on this collection ten years ago and today, like a new millennium Salar Jang, has cutting edge, modern pieces that evoke modern India through many complex mechanisms of thought, form and function. “I don’t bother with the spiel, I have to have a gut reaction to the work,” he says, defining his collection.
Called Where In The World, the sections sorted by the curators are: export (Indians painting for western sensibilities), outraged (social comment), outrageous (the most harrowing, exploring what’s ‘allowed’ as ‘decent’ in public culture. And what’s not: Subodh Gupta’s nude self-portrait with a gush of vaseline all over him). In video art, Sonia Khurana’s vulnerable nude vision of herself is painful to watch and more pain ensues with Icarus (Mithu Sen’s visuals of ants swarming over a bird embryo), Sudarshan Shetty’s gigantic, cleverly crafted steel T-rex ‘doing it’ to a Jaguar (car) is spectacular.
The enormity, eclecticism and sublime fearlessness of this collection ring with the confidence. You may not personally relate to a number of works in this collection. But that is why you must absolutely make the effort to schlep across to Gurgaon, to the dusty gully behind Epicentre (Apparel House), to rusty-red, ironclad Sirpur House where Poddar’s Devi Art Foundation has laid out this show.
Dress warmly because the galleries are fearfully draughty, leave your children at home and step out of your mind. Leave your notions of ‘pretty’ and ‘comfortable’ art behind, too, like changing your religion, because this is the only record available of the last ten years of edgy new Indian art. On view until May 9. PS: You’ll love Navin Thomas’s Amar Chitra Katha-inspired work!