Judy Fayard -- Interior Design, 12/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
The memento mori has long appeared in fine art. Often taking the form of a skeleton or skull, it reminds us that life is fleeting and that death comes to all, rich or poor, sinner or saint. Rarely, though, is a memento mori composed of aluminum pots, pans, and other kitchen equipment used to prepare Indian cuisine.
Commissioned for the Nuit Blanche, an all-night arts festival held annually in Paris, Subodh Gupta's 2,200-pound Very Hungry God was installed for a mere 24 hours in the beautiful little neo-Gothic church of Saint-Bernard de la Chapelle in the district known as the Goutte d'Or. This part of the 18th arrondissement has always been a haven for impoverished immigrants, at first Europeans and more recently Indians, other Asians, and Africans. In 1996, the church sheltered a group of illegal immigrants until they were forcibly removed by the police.
Gupta, a former set designer who lives in New Delhi, often features cooking utensils and sacred symbols in pieces ranging from sculpture to photography and video. His gallery In Situ Fabienne Leclerc sold Very Hungry God to a private collector after its white night in church. The price is not public, but perhaps the irony is not lost.