Artist Vivan Sundaram dies at 79

Vivan Sundaram, a world renowned artist who sent bold political messages through his work, passed away on the morning of March 29. The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), of which Sundaram was a founding trustee, gave this information.


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. 

Sundaram’s Emergency drawings are representative of his art of the 1970s. In the 1990s, he created the installation, Memorial, in response to the communal riots in Mumbai. He introduced a new contemporary language in his works while framing social issues. His involvement with political causes, support for radical art movements and engagement with artists across generations helped in crafting and sharpening his art practice.

His association with the Journal of Arts & Ideas and SAHMAT or the backing for the Kochi Muziris Biennale were propelled by the ambition to shape a secular public space and discourse in a polarising time. From lectures to residencies, Sundaram was generous with his time for younger artists. The seminal painter Amrita Sher-Gil, his aunt, who died young, was an inspiration for Sundaram.

Sundaram sought a balance between the gallery and street, theory and praxis, thought and work. In the process, he influenced art, both in its discourse and practice.