Sunil Gupta’s First Major UK Retrospective

Untitled #22, 1976 From the series Christopher Street. Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery. © Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2020

*For Immediate Release*

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: SUNIL GUPTA A RETROSPECTIVE
9 OCT 2020 – 24 JAN 2021
THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S GALLERY

Bagri Foundation is pleased to support From Here to Eternity, which marks the first major retrospective of UK based photographer, Sunil Gupta (b.1953, New Delhi, India). Spanning five decades, the exhibition will bring together all the key series from his pioneering photographic practice for the first time, as well as presenting never-before exhibited works.

Subversive, impulsive, personal and political, Sunil Gupta’s socially engaged practice has focused on themes of identity, family, race, migration and the complexities and taboos of sexuality. A committed activist, his work has been instrumental in raising awareness around the political realities concerning the fight for international gay rights, and making visible the tensions between traditional and contemporary societies, public and private, the body and body politics. This retrospective is a timely reflection and overview of his politically engaged work that continues to tackle these ongoing issues.

From the series From Here To Eternity. Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery
© Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2020

Taking place over two floors of the gallery, this retrospective will bring together works from sixteen of his series from across his divergent and extensive career, from Christopher Street (1976), the first series of photographs Gupta made as a practicing artist, where he documented the burgeoning gay scene in Greenwich Village; to mural-sized narrative portraits such as From Here to Eternity (1999) produced following Gupta’s diagnosis as HIV positive in 1995, they explore his experiences of living with the virus, his fear of death and how his community reacted after being diagnosed. Highly-staged and constructed scenes such as The New Pre-Raphaelites (2008) and a selection of early investigations into digital image-making (Trespass 1992-1995), combine Gupta’s own personal and lived experiences with broader socio-political issues, as well exploring ethical questions of documentation and representation.

Exhibited for the first time in this exhibition, Memorials (1995) is a poignant series that commemorates the victims of homophobic hate crimes; while Reflections of the Black Experience (1986), illustrates aspects of black people’s experience in London, with the resulting exhibition of the work leading eventually to the formation of Autograph – the Association of Black Photographers, an organization devoted to contesting the discrimination of marginalised photographers in the UK.

India Gate, 1987
From the series “Exiles”
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery © Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2020

In the series Exiles (1986-1987), commissioned by The Photographers’ Gallery, Gupta returned to Delhi to visualise the hidden realities of gay men living in India before the decriminalisation of homosexuality, which was punishable with up to ten years in prison until September 2018. Similarly, his series “Pretended” Family Relationships (1988) explored the UK’s notorious “Clause 28” law passed in 1988 by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, which restricted positive representations of same-sex relationships.

More recent series include The New Pre-Raphaelites (2008), which was created to support the legal battle against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial- era law which allowed arrests and prison sentences of up to ten years for any homosexual act. Consisting of highly staged images of South Asian gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals posing against sumptuous, richly-coloured backdrops wearing brilliant costumes, the series creatively reimagines the composition of paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.

Untitled #11, 2008
From the series The New Pre-Raphaelites
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger
Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery
© Sunil Gupta
All Rights Reserved, DACS 2020

From his coming out while migrating with his family to Montreal, to participating in New York’s active Gay Liberation Movement in the 1970s and being an active campaigner in the early AIDS movement, to his more recent campaigning in India and around the world, Gupta has been inspirational to generations of activist photographers and LGBTQ+ rights advocates.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Mark Sealy MBE (Autograph ABP, London) in collaboration with The Photographers’ Gallery, London and the Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto). The exhibition will premiere at The Photographers’ Gallery before travelling to the Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto in Autumn 2021. The exhibition is supported by the Bagri Foundation.

A new publication will be published by the organising partners to accompany the exhibition. Designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio, it will focus on ephemera and map the encounters and events that chart Gupta’s political and personal journey.

A rich programme of online talks, special events and workshops exploring key themes and contexts will be announced shortly. These will be led by a range of writers, artists, activists and theorists including Raisa Kabir, Dr Mark Sealy MBE, Mason Leaver-Yap and the artist himself, Sunil Gupta. Visit tpg.org.uk for details. Talks and Events programme supported by the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation.

– Ends –

For press information, please contact Albany Arts Communications:

Mark Inglefield
mark@albanyartscommunications.com
t: +44 (0) 20 78 79 88 95; m: +44 (0) 75 84 19 95 00

Carla von der Becke
carla@albanyartscommunications.com
t: +44 (0) 20 78 79 88 95; m: + 44 (0) 79 74 25 29 94

Notes to Editors

About Sunil Gupta

Sunil Gupta is a photographer, artist, educator and curator who completed a doctoral program at the University of Westminster in 2018. Educated at the Royal College of Art, Gupta has been involved with independent photography as a critical practice for many years focusing on race, migration and queer issues. In the 1980s, Gupta constructed documentary images of gay men in architectural spaces in Delhi, his “Exiles” series. The images and texts describe the conditions for gay men in India at the times. Gupta’s series “Mr. Malhotra’s Party” updates this theme during a time in which queer identities are more open and also reside in virtual space on the internet and in private parties. His early series “Christopher Street, New York” was shot in the mid-1970s as Gupta studied under Lisette Model at the New School for Social Research and became interested in the idea of gay public space.

Gupta’s published work include the monographs: queer: Sunil Gupta (Prestel/Vadehra Art Gallery, 2011), Wish You Were Here: Memories of a Gay Life (Yoda Press, New Delhi, 2008), and Pictures From Here (Chris Boot Ltd., New York, 2003).  In 2018, with Charan Singh, Gupta exhibited “Dissent and Desire” (catalogue) at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, which was accompanied by the book, Delhi: Communities of Belonging (The New Press, New York, 2016). His last publication was Christopher Street (Stanley Barker, 2018) and his forthcoming publications are Lovers: Ten Years On (Stanley Barker, 2020), and Sunil Gupta: From Here to Eternity (Autograph, 2020). His work has been shown in many important group exhibitions including “Paris, Bombay, Delhi…” at the Pompidou Centre, Paris, 2011, and “Masculinities” at Barbican, London, 2020. His retrospective takes place at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, 2020, and Ryerson Image Center, Toronto, 2021. Gupta is a Professorial Fellow at UCA, Farnham, and Visiting Tutor at the Royal College of Art, London, and was the Lead Curator for the Houston Fotofest in 2018. Gupta’s work is in many private and public collections including, George Eastman House (Rochester, USA); Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (Japan); Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA); Royal Ontario Museum (Canada); Tate (London, UK); Harvard University (Cambridge, USA); and the Museum of Modern Art (New York, USA)

Visitor Information for The Photographer’s Gallery

Tues – Sat, 10:00 – 18:00
Thurs, 10.00 – 20.00
Sundays, 11.00 – 18.00 Admission: £5 / £2.5 concessions

Address: 16-18 Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW Nearest London Underground Station: Oxford Circus T: + 44 (0)20 7087 9300

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