8th Nov, 2008

Leading contemporary artist Subodh Gupta is paying back to his home state Bihar, which is still reeling under the effects of the devastating floods that killed at least 191 people and left thousands homeless, with a charity art auction.

The Bihar Flood Auction will be held Nov 11-12 in Gurgaon, adjacent to the national capital.

The preview of the art works for the auction began Saturday.

'I have been planning to do something to help the flood victims of Bihar for a long time. So I picked up the telephone and called old friends in the art fraternity who agreed to put up their works for auction,' Gupta told IANS.

'Saffronart, Peter Nagi of Nature Morte Gallery and Trident Hotel in Gurgaon are collaborating on the project. Thirty-one artists have given their art works for the auction and the proceeds will be used for rehabilitating Bihar flood victims,' he said.

The auction, the artist said, will begin at 12 noon and last till 7 p.m. on both days.

'We have selected two non-profit organisations, Gunj and SSVK, which will implement the action plan and spend the money in the flood affected areas,' he added.

Gupta, born in Khagaul near Patna, said: 'The idea of a charity auction came to me because winter was approaching and I felt people needed blankets and other essential commodities to tide over the season. Winters in Bihar are very harsh.'

More than three million people were rendered homeless and over one million cattle were affected by floods in Bihar as the Kosi river changed its course following a breach in an embankment upstream in Nepal Aug 18.

The floods have claimed over 191 lives, according to official estimates. However, voluntary agencies fear the number could be in thousands once all bodies are recovered.

Gupta said he has always identified with the plight of the people in backward states like Bihar and Orissa.

'I don't mind if the money goes to Orissa. The language of suffering and oppression is universal. We all feel what has happened in Bihar, what is happening in Baghdad and elsewhere in the world. There is no escaping such situations,' he said.

Socio-political turmoil across the world may not affect him directly, 'but it subconsciously creeps into my work'.

When quizzed about the future trends in art, like the gradual emergence of concept art as a separate genre, Gupta said: 'All art is concept because everything begins with an idea or a concept. If you understand Sufism, you will be able to grasp concept art. It is very close to Sufi philosophy.'

Gupta, who rates Arpita Singh as one of the best contemporary artists he has come across, feels contemporary art is carrying India to the global stage.

'For that matter, everything contemporary is taking the country forward. It is much easier to access the world and know global trends through e-mails and the Internet,' he explained.

Besides the charity auction, the artist is also working on two future shows - 'Public Art Project' with the Delhi-based cultural organisation Khoj and an exhibition to be held at the Serpentine Gallery in London in December.

But Gupta, for all the fame and money he has garnered as the country's most expensive contemporary artist, does not enjoy 'being the million dollar baby of Indian art'.

'It is bad news. I have never sold any of my work. The galleries have done it. They are the hyenas of the art world. It is time to go after them,' he said with a laugh.

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