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Across the Line of Control

world Updated: Oct 09, 2008 23:54 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times

Inside a brewery converted into a Beijing art zone, stainless steel and brass lunch boxes are stacked like high-rises on a slowly revolving sushi belt. On the floor, steel plates and bowls are laid out for an Indian meal, thali-style.

And a mushroom cloud of hundreds of brass and steel utensils rises up to the roof in a giant sculpture titled Line of Control.

One afternoon this week, I found myself alone in the vast Korean gallery Arario Beijing, taking in Bihar-born artist Subodh Gupta’s solo exhibition Line of Control, on from September to November 8.

In 2006, Arario was the first gallery to show contemporary Indian art in Beijing, with a group exhibit called Hungry Gods, followed by a second Indian show last year. The gallery is spread over quiet studios set up since 2005 in the brewery’s brick buildings that remain off the regular tourist’s path.

“The Chinese are getting a feel of Indian art and culture, but it’s just the beginning,’’ curator Dang Dan told HT. A review in Beijing’s latest Time Out, however, went so far as to declare that ‘right now, there’s none more exciting (art) than contemporary Indian art.’’

Gupta’s two paintings on display were sold within a month of the opening, said Dang, but pointed out that though the Chinese showed major interest, his price was too high for them. “And there were not enough pieces in this exhibit,’’ she said. “Many felt it was not the right time to buy.’’

While most Chinese vaguely know of Bollywood, they are blank on Mumbai. The metro’s famed dabbawallas are still unknown in China, unlike in the UK and the US.

“But what is this?’’ asked an educated Chinese woman after I showed her a picture of Gupta’s sushi belt exhibit Start.Stop. — a metaphor for dabbawallas and home-cooked food in a transformed cityscape, with the humble water jugs at the bottom and multi-tier tiffins towering above.

Staring alone at the exhibits that day, I was unsure of the work’s impact on Beijingers. As for me, I began craving for the traditional thali lunch.