Sudarshan Shetty

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Sudarshan Shetty
Born 1961 (age 56–57)
Mangalore, India
Nationality Indian
Occupation Artist

Sudarshan Shetty (born 1961) is a contemporary Indian artist who has worked in painting, sculpture, installation, video, sound and performance. He has exhibited widely in India and more recently he has become increasingly visible on the international stage as an important voice in contemporary art. His work has been exhibited at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan, and the Tate Modern, London, England.[citation needed] The artist has been a resident at the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, United States, and was a Ford Foundation Fellow at the New School for General Studies, New York.[1]

In 1999, he was the only Indian artist commissioned to make a public sculpture (Home and Away) in Fukuoka, Japan, as a part of Hakata Reverain Art Project, curated by Fumio Nanjo.

Among Shetty's solo shows are "The pieces earth took away " Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna (2012), " listen outside this house" at GALLERYSKE, Bangalore (2011), "Between the tea cup and a sinking constellation", Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris (2011),"this too shall pass" at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai (2010) and "The more I die the lighter I get", Tilton Gallery, New York (2010).[2] In 2011 Shetty's work was featured in 'Paris-Delhi-Bombay' presented at the Centre Pompidou and at 'India Inclusive', World Economic Forum presented in Davos. In 2010, Sudarshan was part of Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum, curated by Nancy Spector at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and in Indian Highway, at the Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Herning, Denmark, which opened last year at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo and at The Musee d'Art Contemporain, Lyon in 2011. In February 2010, Shetty's House of Shades, commissioned by Louis Vuitton, was unveiled at Galleria de Milano. In 2009, Shetty had a solo exhibition at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, and his work was part of India Contemporary, a three-man show, at the Gem Museum for Contemporary Art, The Hague.[citation needed]

Shetty's work is part of many important public collections including the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Devi Art Foundation (Anupam Poddar), India, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan and the FC MoCA (Frank Cohen Museum of Modern Art), Manchester, UK.[citation needed]

Shetty lives and works in Mumbai, India.[citation needed]

Early years[edit]

Sudarshan Shetty was born in Mangalore, India, in 1961. Though Shetty was born there his family moved to Mumbai when he was an infant of six months.[3] Sudarshan Shetty's father, Adve Vasu Shetty was himself a kind of artist, specifically a performer in Yakshagana.[3] There was "a lot of music and singing in the house" where he grew up.[3] Sudarshan Shetty trained in painting at the Sir JJ school of Art, Mumbai, during the late 1980s, but found himself increasingly attracted to the idioms of sculpture and installation.[4] From 1989–91, he worked at the Kanoria Centre for the Arts in Ahmedabad.[5] There he interacted closely with colleagues at the National Institute of Design and the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology. Through these conversations, Shetty honed his knowledge of the relationship between sculpture, design and architecture.

Shetty currently lives in Chembur, Mumbai. [5]

Art practice[edit]

Sudarshan Shetty's oeuvre has been defined mostly by large sculptural installations and multi-media works. Experimenting with innumerable materials and medium his installations or assemblages use quotidian objects juxtaposed in an attempt to open up new possibilities of meaning.[6] Eschewing straightforward devices of narrative and explicit symbolism [7] and displaying a fascination for the mechanics of toys and mechanised objects,[8] Shetty infuses domestic, essentially inert objects with new life. The world of everyday contraptions, objects (especially those from middle class showcases, or shop-front show windows), continues to be reconfigured from moment to moment in his work [9])

He often uses simple, repetitive, mechanical movements and sound in kinetic works that explore aspects of temporality. Shetty says, “The ploy is to attract the viewer and then to disenchant them with the mechanical movement.” [10] These mechanical pieces together with scenes of domestic interiority are conceived to create places of amusement or what Shetty refers to as a ‘fairground spectacle’. Things form a gaggle of actors, their movements become acts in a play.[11]

“The idea is definitely to bring in the activity of a market place to the fore. This is also a ploy to bring in a passerby into this arena – to seduce with the familiar.” [12]

Sudarshan’s earlier concerns and themes evolved around the politics of absence or loss of body, of death, of ‘being elsewhere’. The artist’s preoccupation with absence or what he calls the ‘philosophical absence of a physical body’ [13] was an inherent part of shows like Consanguinity (2003), Eight Corners of the World (2006) and Love (2006). ‘I am interested in the idea of absence, a human absence, of being elsewhere. I think most of us are condemned to be elsewhere: I embrace this predicament and rejoice in it.’[14]

With his recent shows The more I die the lighter I get and this too shall pass and for a few years preceding it Sudarshan has become more absorbed with the ideas of futility and meaninglessness. Heightening notions of futility through repetitiveness, where mechanical shoes walk on and on, vessels fill and empty and coats dip in and out of liquids, there is artifice in the making of the work itself and in staging it where the object becomes the referential to the real event maybe distant in the viewer’s memory of it. Transience and mortality are underlying themes in his recent works where ‘the compulsions of an engagement with the world and the resultant disenchantment are two sides of the same coin.’ [15] For Shetty being part of the process and engage with it are no longer seen as choice because ‘only through an exercised distance with it I may have a chance to arrive at some answers.’ [15]

“In setting-up of most of my shows, the artifice involved in ‘staging’ a show becomes an inherent part of the exercise. I am interested in playing out the fictional aspect in creating a sense of ‘drama’ or a ‘spectacle’, and at the same time, revealing the meaninglessness involved in doing so. And both these positions remain mutually inclusive and feed off each other in the work.” [16]

Several of Shetty’s kinetic works are characterised by the use of the skeleton.[17] The skeletons represent the lost body [3] and also evoke futility in their process of facture.[3] The artist acquires an actual skeleton, takes it apart, makes a mould for each piece of bone, casts them all, and reassembles the skeleton in stainless steel. There is a certain futility in the painstaking procedure that is particularly the futility of art.[3] Skeletons have featured in almost all of Shetty’s shows in the last decade from the mechanical dinosaur making metallic love to a sports car (Love 2006) to the stilted bull in "The more I die the lighter I get" (2010) and the rocking skeleton of a horse in "This too shall pass" (2010).

Mumbai, in all its visual abundance and diversity is Shetty’s main source of information and inspiration. Most of what he calls “the information for my work” comes, he says, “from my day-to-day negotiation with this city.” [3] The city provides the backdrop for his recordings of the unfolding, renting and unfurling of human life.[11]


Paper Moon (1995)

His first important solo, Paper Moon coincided with the shift between painting and sculpture that was taking place in Shetty’s oeuvre.[3] The exhibition that took place at Pundole Art Gallery and Framasji Cawasjee Hall, Mumbai and at Ravindra Bhavan, New Delhi, comprised largely fibreglass and wood sculptures of familiar objects which critic Ranjit Hoskote described as ‘highly stylised, phantasmagoric fairground images.’

Consanguinity (2003)

In 2003, the Bose Pacia Modern in New York opened the Habitat Visual Arts Center in New Delhi [3] where Shetty exhibited his major solo Consanguinity. (The) intersection between body and object is most clearly visible in Consanguinity, a show that was clearly an elegy for the absent body.[7] Anthropomorphised objects formed the core of the show with bleeding trumpets, snapping scissors in a bathtub and eyeballs encased in glass jars. Blood and its multiple forms were repeatedly encountered in the nine exhibits, which explore the very proposition of human mortality.[18]

Party is Elsewhere (2005)

In 2005, Shetty had a show called ‘Party is Elsewhere’, which was conceived for an anniversary party for a gallery space in a building that had been gutted by fire prior to the date. The relentless beating of two wooden hammers on two large tables with 365 empty wine glasses kept one in a state of constant alarm. There was violence that the noise and the fragility of the wine glasses created. A neon sign in cursive writing cryptically announced: Party is Elsewhere.[19]

Shift (2005)

In his 2005 show, Shift he collaborated with architects Shantanu Poredi and Maneesha Aggarwal to produce a model of a collapsible building [7] that was a museum when upright and a platform for a street market when it collapsed.

Love (2006)

Love, a GALLERYSKE show, which took place at Bodhi Art in Mumbai in 2006 [3] had artist Baiju Parthan proclaim, “This show has raised the bar for Installation art in India.” [20] In an interview with Gopal Mirchandani, Shetty said, “The challenge was to use many accepted notions and images that comes to be associated with the idea of love and work with them.” The result a skeletal steel dinosaur ceaselessly mating with a shiny Jaguar car;[6] a Braille machine typing the word love endlessly; a projection of a mechanical heart that morphs into a biological heart which further morphs into a Valentine’s heart, thus attempting to understand love through its multitudinous definitions and derivations.

Eight Corners of the World (2006)

Using objects that are ubiquitous and familiar, this show took place at GALLERYSKE in 2006. Eight Corners of the World, focused on the dynamic cosmos of domestic interiors [21] and was one of Shetty’s darker works, several elements of this complex installation suggest death.[3] The repetitive movements of the animated constructions on display, combined with a medley of sounds, especially of flowing liquids and the mostly murky lighting created a world [21] where the human figure was conspicuous by its absence.[21]

Pure (2007)

In 2007, Pittsburgh's Mattress Factory hosted Shetty's Pure.[22] The result of a residency there, Pure presented a miniature world system that keeps itself going through a network of pumps, pipes and valves.[3]

Leaving Home (2008)

Continuing his preoccupation with objects of domesticity, Leaving Home was a solo show exhibited at Gallery Krinzinger in Vienna. “Leaving Home” was an ambitious, existential reflection on the human tendency to create things and devices that shape our life.[23]

History of Loss (2008)

History of Loss, made in 2008 and exhibited first at the Outdoor Sculpture Park at the prestigious Frieze Art Fair, comprises a wall of cast-aluminium replicas of cars reminiscent of the Volkswagen Beetle. Each car was moulded first and then deliberately dropped from a height of 300 feet and made to crash. This work was later exhibited at the 2009–2011 Vancouver Biennale.

Saving Skin (2008)

Saving Skin at the Tilton Gallery in 2008 was Shetty’s first show in New York.[3] The show saw a suite of mechanised installations that were concerned with recalling the loss of the body within an increasingly mechanised universe and these installations extend his research into the futility of such experiments.

Six Drops (2009)

In Six Drops that was exhibited at GALLERYSKE in 2009, are a series of computer-generated inkjet prints on paper. The images have been set against a view of a hall at the Tate Modern. Drawing on Asian theologies, the six drops of the work’s title refers to six enemies of the creative self – lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride and envy.[19]

The House of Shades (2010)

Commissioned by Louis Vuitton for the Women's Fashion Week in Milan,[24] The house of shades echoes the form of an airport kiosk, a glass enclosure that plays with the traditional architectural notion of inside outside.[25] This work was installed at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

The More I die the Lighter I get (2010)

His second solo at the Tilton Gallery, in The more I die, the lighter I get, Shetty constructs diverse scenarios to explore the philosophical questions of life, death, absence and emptiness. His suite of installations highlights the intertwined fates of the human, inhuman and non-human forces in a world that constantly negates the presence of death.

This too shall pass (2010)

The first of a series of exhibitions planned by the museum through a residency program that invites eminent artists who have studied at the Sir J.J. School of Art[26] to work within the space of the museum and its objects. The show ‘this too shall pass’ is built around the notions of permanence and the ‘artifice’ involved in presenting it. The exhibits attempt, through a world of representations and suggestions, to play on the viewer’s encounters with the quotidian worlds of the city, home and street by incorporating images of everyday objects, machine parts and ready-mades, available in the streets around the artist’s surroundings in Mumbai. The assemblages suggest and embed traces of urban processing as the city itself serves as the artist’s studio while the museum is infused with the performative qualities of the street.

Between the teacup and a sinking constellation (2011)

Shetty creates hybrids that explore the possible overlap between Indian and Western traditions. Addressing domestic preoccupations and the concept of movement, the show was characterised by duality- the teacup signifying the concerns of the present, while a sinking constellation refers to the transient nature of it all.[27]

The focal point of the exhibition was distorted automobile, handcrafted in wood. Slowly rotating, the car appears as an archaeological find, raising many questions about the accident—and the civilisation—that forged it.[28]

Listen Outside this House (2011)

Listen outside this house is built around the idea that words have a way of opening up a world of images and references that continually shift in their meaning and evocation.[29]

The words highlight the duality of change and permanence, the absolute nothingness of everything, and the potential irrelevance of existence.[30] The work in the show uses various objects- a dilapidated historical monument, pages from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, a salvaged seasoned door to bring the artifice involved in setting up a show to the surface and to bring in a world view through the idea of words.[31]

Flying Bus (2012)

Installed on the grounds of Maker Maxity in Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mumbai the Flying Bus is a replica of a 1970s double-decker bus with two stainless steel wings attached on either side. The bus is positioned as if poised to take off.[32] The work draws on themes of immigration, transit and living on the edge. A plaque beside the Bus states “Sometimes when we travel we forget who we are," The Flying Bus is arguably India's most significant public art project.[33]

the pieces earth took away, (2012)

Shetty appropriates the notion of tradition and pairs it with recurrent themes in his practice-that of artifice or fabulation, to create five-part installation to the act of mourning.[34]

The work in the show bears references to the thirteen days of mourning in Hindu Rituals as well heightens the contrast between the eternal cycle of reincarnation and the linear ephemerality of a domestic experience.[35]

Path to Water, (2013)

Presented by GALLERYSKE at the Art Feature Section of Art Basel, Path to Water consists of five hand-carved reliefs depicting two elephants in a jungle. Each bears an interpretation of a single line of poetry – “Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki,” by Amir Khusrau, a celebrated 12/13th-century courtier, Sufi mystic, and musician. Path to Water continues Shetty’s exploration of the ambiguity of meaning that an archaeological artefact implicitly contains, and the absence of fixity in language.[36]

Solo exhibitions[edit]


"Shoonya Ghar " National Gallery of Modern Art , New Delhi


Mimic Momento , galerie Daniel Templon, Brussels

who must write these lines , GALLERYSKE, Bangalore


every broken moment, piece by piece , GALLERYSKE, New Delhi


The pieces earth took away, Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna


Listen outside this house, GALLERYSKE, Bangalore

Between the teacup and a sinking constellation, galerie Daniel Templon, Paris


this too shall pass, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai

The more I die the lighter I get, Tilton Gallery, New York


Untitled, Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris

Six Drops, GALLERYSKE, Bangalore


Leaving Home, Gallery Krinzinger, Vienna

Saving Skin, Jack Tilton Gallery, New York


Love, GALLERYSKE and Bodhi Art, Mumbai


Eight corners of the world, GALLERYSKE, Bangalore

Shift, a collaborative architectural installation with Shantanu Poredi and Manisha Agarwal, Philips Contemporary, Mumbai

Party is elsewhere, Jamaat Art Gallery, Mumbai


Statics, Chemould Gallery, Mumbai


Consanguinity, Nature Morte, Bose Pacia Modern at the Habitat Visual Arts Centre, New Delhi


For Here or To Go Installation at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka


Lone Boat River Song, Spike Island, Bristol


Paintings, Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai


Paper Moon, Pundole Art Gallery and Framji Cawasjee Hall, Mumbai

Paper Moon, Ravindra Bhavan, New Delhi


Spirit of India, Holland Art Gallery, Rotterdam, The Netherlands


  1. ^ [1] Archived 25 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ [2][dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Thomas McEvilley, Being Elsewhere, essay published in The more I die the lighter I get, GALLERYSKE and Tilton Gallery, ISBN 978-81-920008-0-0
  4. ^ Hoskote, Ranjit Private Mythologies, Contemporary Art from India, curated by Akira Tatehata The Japan Foundation, Tokyo exhibition catalogue
  5. ^ a b Vitamin 3-D: New Perspectives in Sculpture and Installation, Phaidon Press ISBN 978-0-7148-4974-4
  6. ^ a b Archived from the original on 19 November 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ a b c Rao, Vyjayanthi, Object Lessons, India Contemporary, Exhibition Catalogue, Gem Museum for Contemporary Art, The Hague, 2009
  8. ^ Mehta, Anupa Unsteady Equilibrium, essay in India 20: Conversations with Contemporary Artists, MAPIN Publishing, ISBN 978-0-944142-60-8
  9. ^ 12) Burte, Himanshu The Naked Object of Magic: A personal encounter with the work of Sudarshan Shetty
  10. ^ Interview with Gitanjali Dang A Change of Heart, Hindustan Times, 2006
  11. ^ a b Desai, Radhika All that is solid melts into air, essay in Affair Exhibition Catalogue
  12. ^ Interview with Gopal Mirchandani, Affair Exhibition Catalogue
  13. ^ Interview with Farah Siddiqui, Candid Strokes, Imperia Magazine
  14. ^ "Life | The Presence of Absence". Archived from the original on 16 January 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  15. ^ a b Interview with Ina Puri, Take on Art Magazine, Vol. 1, Issue 4
  16. ^ Interview with Vogue magazine
  17. ^ Donde, Dipa and Ginwala, Natasha, Where in the World, Exhibition Catalogue, Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi, 2008
  18. ^ Nath, Deeksha In Cold Blood Art India Vol. IX issue I, New Delhi 2004
  19. ^ a b Rao, Vyjayanthi, Object Lessons – Between Art and Anthropology, essay published in The more I die the lighter I get, GALLERYSKE and Tilton Gallery, ISBN 978-81-920008-0-0
  20. ^ Mirchandani, Gopal Love etc…Art and Deal Vol. 5, No. 1, 2007
  21. ^ a b c Jakimowicz, Marta The Secret Life of Objects, Art India, Vol XI Issue I, 2006
  22. ^ Forgenie, Cacy (2015-10-22). "Flavorpill". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  23. ^ Duenser, Severin for the exhibition Leaving Home, Gallery Krinzinger
  24. ^ Fontanella-Khan, Amana. "Mumbai-based artist Sudarshan Shetty talks traffic, dystopia and trucks". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  25. ^ Interview with Vogue Magazine.[where?]
  26. ^ Sorabjee, Deepika. "Artist Sudarshan Shetty's spectacular multi-media mash-up". CNN. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  27. ^ Balasubramaniam, Chitra. "January/February 2013 Sculpture Magazine - Dan Steinhilber". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  28. ^ "Sudarshan Shetty — Between the tea cup and a sinking constellation — Daniel Templon Gallery — Exhibition — Slash Paris". 2011-09-19. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  29. ^ "Sudarshan Shetty - Artist Statement". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  30. ^ Balasubramaniam, Chitra. "January/February 2013 Sculpture Magazine - Dan Steinhilber". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  31. ^ [3]
  32. ^ Sorabjee, Deepika (2012-01-30). "Sudarshan Shetty, Flying Bus | CNN Travel". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  33. ^ "Mumbai-based artist Sudarshan Shetty demonstrates his sense of play | The National". 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  34. ^ Garcia-Anton, Katya – A letter to Sudarshan Shetty – 2 Take on Art Magazine, Issue 10 February 2013
  35. ^ "Sabine B. Vogel on Sudarshan Shetty - / in print". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  36. ^ D'Mello, Rosalyn (June 5, 2013). "GALLERYSKE at Art Basel 2013". Blouin Art Info. Retrieved 2015-10-26.