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Contemporary artist Vivan Sundaram dies

The 79-year-old Delhi-based artist was known for his prolific, multi-disciplinary work that drew inspiration from history, literature, film, tradition and more

Vivan Sundaram in 2017.
Vivan Sundaram in 2017. (File photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint)

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Contemporary artist Vivan Sundaram died on Wednesday morning after a brief illness. He was 79.

"Vivan Sundaram passed away this morning at 9.20a.m. Further details of the cremation as decided will be communicated to you shortly," reported PTI, quoting a note from the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), of which Sundaram was a founding trustee.

Born in Shimla in 1943, the Delhi-based artist studied painting at MS University, Baroda, and The Slade School of Fine Art, London in the 1960s. One of the most influential artists who brought a sense of internationalism to Indian art, Sundaram's practice ranged from paintings and photographs to videos, sculptures and installations. He drew inspiration for his works, large and small, from sources as diverse as Pablo Neruda’s poems and Macchu Picchu. 

Also read: Vivan Sundaram: A man of many mediums

“Extremely sad to share that Vivan Sundaram has passed on. He was one of the finest artist, activist I have known for over 35 years . His demise is a big loss to the art world and also to the creative cultural resistance,” tweeted his friend Shabnam Hashmi. “His demise is a big loss to the art world and also to the creative cultural resistance. He was a rare person, generated extremely interesting ideas, meticulously planned them and worked round the clock to implement them.”

In 2018, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi hosted a huge retrospective to mark 50 years of his work as an artist. Sundaram often said that his work was influenced by chance encounters, which was illustrated in this show. It threaded together found objects and histories, and drew lines to the diverse influences on his work from movies such as Alain Resnais’ Night And Fog, which Sundaram watched in the 1960s about the atrocities in Nazi concentration camps, and his student tours to Khajuraho, when he doodled and scribbled on official guide book images.

He is survived by his wife art historian-critic Geeta Kapur.

Also read: Vivan Sundaram's photographic eye

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