Vivan Sundaram Retrospective: Step inside and you are no longer a stranger

When Vivan Sundaram first went to London in the ’60s, he did what any Indian on a fellowship to an arts program in Europe would do – visit museums and galleries, gaze at the European masterpieces, all of them odes to the canvas and its possibilities. A couple of decades later, in the early ’90s, Sundaram gave up the idea of the canvas altogether. Since then, he has not only found new idioms, but has pushed boundaries of the language and possibilities of Indian art. His first retrospective, bringing together 50 years of works and ideas, places him as a man not only of many mediums and definitions, but someone who is as political as he is hard to categorise.

Sundaram’s retrospective titled ‘Step inside and you are no longer a stranger’ after one of his works, begins with 409 Ramkinkars, homage to the Ramkinkar Baij’s modernist sculptures through a range of his own sculptures, all placed and lit like a theatrical production, in collaboration with theatre director Anuradha Kapur “I have always, in different ways, critiqued the notion of single authorship. When I was asked to do a mural on a building designed by Charles Correa in Bombay, I immediately asked to work with Bhupen Khakkar and Nalini Malini. This was still during the ’80s. I would often ask Nalini or Bhupen to work on something, and then I would continue with it. The notion that all of it has to come from inside me, I don’t agree with and have, therefore, always tried to engage with other artists,” Sundaram says.