Subodh Gupta collected the pots and pans in This is not a fountain from families all over India, and their accumulated dents and scratches speak to the economic reality and daily lives of their former owners. Gathered in a pile, as if discarded by many people at once, they also reflect ongoing migration in the country from rural to more urban areas. Gupta himself migrated from a rural village to the enormous city of New Delhi, and in his work he often uses tools, such as farming implements, to examine India’s transformation in the wake of its industrialization. For example, the recycled metals and circulating water of this work raise the specter of competition over increasingly scarce natural resources.
The work’s title, This is not a fountain, is an homage to the Surrealist artist René Magritte’s painting La Trahison des images (Ceci n'est pas une pipe) (The Treachery of images [This is not a pipe]), which features an image of a pipe above the caption “This is not a pipe.” Magritte’s work has been interpreted as a comment on the gaps between art, language, and reality, which Gupta’s title suggests are also apparent in his work (which both is and is not “really” a fountain).
Label from We the People: New Art from the Collection, October 23, 2018–July 21, 2019