La Gazette met with... Subodh Gupta and Frédéric Bodenes
Subodh Gupta is an artist. Frédéric Bodenes, Artistic and Image Director of Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche. Together they have created 'Sangam', the almost open-air contemporary art exhibition for January 2023. What do they have in common? Their taste for encounters. This is theirs.
© Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche
La Gazette: For several months now, you have been talking daily about "Sangam". But do you remember your very first meeting?
Frédéric: The first time I saw you, Subodh, was in 2017, at Art Basel, at the heart of your work Cooking the World. We had a very quick exchange because you were busy feeding your visitors. I was already familiar with your work having seen one of your exhibitions some time before, in India. I even had the chance to visit your workshop, but you were not there. And then there was the "real" meeting, following your exhibitions at Beaubourg and the Monnaie de Paris. That's when I suggested that you put on a contemporary art exhibition with Le Bon Marché.
Subodh: I remember it very well. After explaining the project to me, I invited you to spend a few days at my house in Delhi. You were able to meet my family, including my wife, and share our meals...
La Gazette: Inviting someone to your home is quite intimate, especially over several days. Subodh, why was it so important to have Frédéric in your home?
Subodh: It's a cultural thing in India. We invite our loved ones to our homes and value the mixing of family and friends. And I love to cook! Cooking has been part of my artistic practice for years. Pots and pans can be found in several of my works. They remind those who see them of their home, their roots, their childhood.
Frédéric: That's what moves me about your work. You give your audiences very personal experiences, after all.
La Gazette: Subodh, how does it feel to be approached like this by Le Bon Marché?
Subodh: There is something magical, something paranormal. Firstly, because this store is different to others. Over the years, it has gained an artistic legitimacy that pushes me, as an artist, to explore new paths. Secondly, because Le Bon Marché allows me to dream. I have learned from working with your teams that you like challenges as much as I do. Spiritual or technical! This is what drives me.
"Cooking has been part of my artistic practice for years. Pots and pans can be found in several of my works. They remind those who see them of their home, their roots, their childhood.”
La Gazette: Frédéric, you have been entrusting the keys to Le Bon Marché to a contemporary artist for an exhibition in January for seven years now. What is special about this one?
Frédéric: Subodh has worked with accumulations of everyday utensils. Second-hand stewpots, pans, fryers and saucepans that are usually ignored, suddenly take on a theatrical dimension. For me, this echoes the objects that are also sold at Le Bon Marché. Thanks to Subodh, we also look at them differently, realizing that they could be works of art.
Subodh: And then, the kitchen objects that I showcase are for everyone. I want to awaken something unique in people.
Frédéric: And it works. Your utensils remind me of my grandmother, my uncle... Because I project onto your works things that belong only to me, they become mine.
La Gazette: Frédéric, what was the brief you gave to Subodh that resulted in the three sets of works in this exhibition?
Frédéric: The brief... is that there isn’t one. We give the artist free rein. The only starting point we give to the artists we work with is to give their interpretation of the colour white. And for the past seven years, I still manage to be surprised by the works produced!
La Gazette: Subodh, what was your interpretation of the 'white' that Frédéric talks about?
Subodh: It was not literal. I proposed to cover the most monumental room on the ground floor, several metres high, with mirrors. It is a conversation between the store, the visitors and the artwork.
La Gazette: How do you see the presentation of works not in a gallery or a museum, but in a shop?
Subodh: It’s unusual. We always see art in white, naked spaces, outside the world. Here, the opposite is true. Le Bon Marché brings art into the real world. I’m happy to show contemporary art differently, easily. Here, you don't need to buy a ticket to see it. I like places where people live and go. India is a very populated country, I'm used to being around people. With Le Bon Marché, my art becomes theatre.
La Gazette: What about the word 'Sangam', which serves as the title of the exhibition? What does it mean to each of you?
Subodh: In India, Sangam is the place where three sacred rivers meet. When I contextualise this word in the context of the exhibition, it is also a river of people from all over the world, converging in one place.
Frédéric: For me, Sangam is a connection between the work and the products around it. "Sangam” is everywhere and mixes everything. Art, music, fashion... This could be the new name of Le Bon Marché.
"Sangam is everywhere and mixes everything. Art, music, fashion... This could be the new name of Le Bon Marché.”