Following its success at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, New Delhi-based artist Subodh Gupta’s sculpture What does the vessel contain, that the river does not is on view for the first time outside of India at Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row, London through July 27th.
The piece is comprised of a gigantic boat suspended at an angle from the ceiling, which is filled with commonplace objects including chairs, beds, window frames, fishing nets, plastic jars, cans, an old radio, cooking pots and pans, a suitcase and a bicycle. A traditional fishing vessel from Kerala, India, the vessel measures seventy feet in length and ten feet in width, and occupies the entire stretch of the gallery, weighing 4 tons.
The title of the work is borrowed from the 13th century Rumi poem, The Sufi Path of Love, which addresses the ancient Sufi idea of the microcosm, the containing of a complete universe within the soul. Gupta presents a physical interpretation of this microcosm, detailing one person’s existence. Each article has its own distinct purpose, yet together they illutrate a person’s complete way of life. The boat is transformed from merely a mode of transportation to a source of endurance, nourishment and livelihood in transit.
The magnitude and complexity of the work creates an almost numinous experience for the viewer. The boat is tilted, as though it is riding a wave, and its angle creates the impression that the myriad of objects are about to tumble out of the vessel to be lost at sea. The composition appears to be frozen in time at the point of suspense and turmoil. The longer one gazes at the installation, the more details are realized, from the twisted wires holding the pans together to the broken mirror of a cabinet door. The sculpture raises philopshical and political questions regarding cultural and personal identity in the globalized world. This issue is particularly poignant given Great Britian’s imperial control of India.
Georgina Adam reported for The Financial Times that Gupta’s giant boat had sold to the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi for $800,000. While the museum confirmed the purchase, it did not confirm the amount.
Art review: Subodh Gupta, What does the vessel contain, that the river does not, Hauser & Wirth, London [The Independent]
Material world: Subodh Gupta at Hauser & Wirth [Financial Times]
The Art Market: the taxing business of forgery [Financial Times]
Hauser & Wirth