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Universal Recipient

Universal Recipient
titled 'UNIVERSAL RECIPIENT' (upper left); further dated, signed and titled '- 2008 JITISH KALLAT - UNIVERSAL RECIPIENT -' (on (on stretcher bar on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
98 x 68 in. (248.9 x 172.7 cm.) canvas; 16 x 13 x 13 in. (40.6 x 33 x 33 cm.) bronze gargoyle
Painted in 2008
Haunch of Venison, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2009

Brought to you by

Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari

Lot Essay

Jitish Kallat’s interdisciplinary practice spans painting, sculpture, video and photography. A graduate of the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai, Kallat has established himself as one of the leading contemporary artists practicing in India today. His work is currently exhibited as part of India's pavilion at the Venice Biennale, titled Our Time for a Future Caring. Living and working in the pluralistic mega-city of Mumbai, Kallat draws upon the visual cultures of the city to represent the multiplicity of the daily lives of Mumbaikars. The artist’s vivid figurative paintings serve as both a celebration of the city as well as a political critique of socioeconomic divides across the nation.

In his series of large scale portraits titled Universal Recipient, Kallat extends this exploration of his home town and its dispossessed and downtrodden masses to a distinct group of Mumbai residents: building security guards depicted in their uniforms with regalia fit for a general. These impoverished sentries are often itinerant workers, coming from India's villages and harboring greater aspirations as they guard many of Mumbai's wealthiest enclaves and residences. Their faces, towering over viewers, encapsulate Kallat's description of these men as raconteurs of Mumbai's inner secrets.

“To me, almost every one of us is a raconteur of the world's secrets, because each one of us possesses a unique world view. And yet some social groups are fascinating because of the roles they play or the perception they invite due to their appearance. The security guards standing at the gates might have a stern aura, mainly due to their professional uniform, however they work for long twelve hour shifts and are often underpaid. Many of them are migrants who have just come into the city. Mostly seated at the gate, minding the thin membrane of separation from the street, which is the location of their occupation, they develop what I might call a 'gate's-eye-view' of the city.” (Artist statement, N. Miall, Jitish Kallat: Universal Recipient, exhibition catalogue, Zurich, 2008, p. 53)

In these portraits, Kallat magnifies and multiplies certain features to represent his subjects as icons. The labyrinths of machines, animals and humans that constitute the 'urban turban' or hair of these subjects is an acknowledgment of the city’s inextricable role in the psyche of its citizens, while the two bronze owl supports on which the painting rests are replicas of the intricate fauna that is carved into the facade of the busy Victoria Terminus train station, a nerve center of the city.

“Our immediate surroundings often continue to resonate in our heads. This residual hum becomes pronounced pandemonium on over-populated cities such as Mumbai [...] The paintings of city dwellers carrying a crumbling cascade of stories on their heads become double portraits: a simultaneous portrait of the city and its inhabitant. The pieces emerge from the belly of strife as experienced in the metropolis but attempt to address the universal and somewhat classic themes of survival and mortality.” (Artist statement, N. Miall, Jitish Kallat, Universal Recipient, exhibition catalogue, Zurich, 2008, p. 52)

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