Sunil Gupta: The New Pre-Raphaelites

19 October - 18 November 2023 New York

Opening reception: Wednesday 18 October, 6 - 8pm


Hales is delighted to announce The New Pre-Raphaelites, celebrated artist Sunil Gupta's third solo exhibition with the gallery. The important series of photographs, originally commissioned in 2008 by Autograph, London, were subject of a solo exhibition at The Holburne Museum, Bath, UK (2022) and were included in his major touring retrospective, From Here to Eternity at The Photographers' Gallery, London, UK; and The Image Centre, Toronto, Canada (2020, 2021, 2022). Most recently the series was presented in Tate Britain's exhibition, The Rossettis (2023). The exhibition at Hales will be the largest presentation of the series in the US.  
Over a career spanning four decades, Gupta has remained dedicated to advocating the visibility of his queer identity and Indian heritage, cultivating a powerfully influential practice which is simultaneously political and deeply personal. He was born in India in 1953 and migrated to Canada as a teenager in the late 1960s, moving to New York City in 1976. Gupta now lives and works in London. The artist's experience of multiple cultures and his own lived experience is a point of departure for photographic works, born from a desire to see himself and others like him represented in art history. 
The New Pre-Raphaelites is a project centered on LGBTQ+ rights in India. Living in India at the time, Gupta was a key figure in the arts scene, making work that explored and documented queer lives. This body of photographs were made in response to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a 19th century law criminalising homosexuality. The starting point for each work is a Pre-Raphaelite painting, drawing on the movement's use of classical iconography to make a rebellious point about burgeoning sexuality. 
The Pre-Raphaelites-a group of painters and poets founded in 1848, including Rossetti and Millais-stood for a reformation of art and expression, contesting stifling norms of the classical Victorian pose. Instead, they made paintings which focused on luminosity and detail to reflect nature. Gupta states 'I was struck first by the vividness of the [paintings'] colors and then by the ambivalent sexuality of their subject matter.'[1] He interprets the sensuality of the poses in the paintings to visualise a modern Indian queer identity in his photographs.  
The New Pre-Raphaelites depict couples and single men and women posing romantically. Gupta invited his friends and fellow activists to model - their involvement constituting an act of resistance, courage and commitment. Combining symbolism and realism in mythological portrayals, The New Pre-Raphaelites are captivating in their unique story telling. Implementing the formal qualities of the original paintings, Gupta creates similarities in composition, color and details, yet his portraits are 'strikingly contemporary. Rather than romantically remote, the subject's gaze is in each case penetratingly intimate.'[2] As the Pre-Raphaelites observed in the 1800s, Gupta's photographs transpose the private into the public.[3]
*In 2018, after decades of grassroots activism, section 377 was ruled unconstitutional, decriminalising homosexual activity.  
Gupta has a Diploma from West Surrey College of Art & Design, Farnham, Surrey, UK (1981); an MA from Royal College of Art, London, UK (1983); and a PhD from the University of Westminster, London, UK (2019) with a thesis titled "Queer Migrations." Gupta lives and works in London. 
Gupta's work is in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, USA; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, USA; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA, USA; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Japan; the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada; Tate Britain, UK; Museum of London, UK; George Eastman Museum, NY, USA; Baltimore Museum of Art, MD, USA; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India; Arts Council, UK; Government Art Collection, London, UK; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London UK; and Harvard University, MA, USA.  



[2] Whiles, V. Sunil Gupta in Art in America 26.04.2010


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