New Delhi: Artist Bharti Kher has been conferred with the prestigious 'Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres' (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters), France's highest cultural award for her contribution in contemporary art landscape.
French ambassador to India Francois Richier bestowed the honour on the 46-year-old artist in a ceremony here late last evening. "You have become a global icon. Becoming a global icon has become dangerous though. You tend to turn into a product and this, you have resisted very well," Richier said.
Kher's artworks span several mediums like painting, sculpture and installation. The artist is renowned for her remarkable experimentation with 'bindis' that have over time come to be recognised as her signature style. Her "An Absence Of Assignable Cause" which is a 14-feet- high sculptural interpretation of the heart of the blue sperm whale is among the finest works from the experiment.
Eloquent about her love for art Kher reminisced about her artistic journey while accepting the award. "I am deeply honoured to receive this award. Making and looking at art is so much joy. I created with my hands the magic that I so wanted to see existing in the world. This decision I made at six, that it was either art or joining the circus," she said.
Appreciating the artist, who grew up in the United Kingdom, for remaining faithful to her roots, the ambassador said, "You've kept a sense of your vision true to yourself. You're true to your origin."
Kher currently lives and works in Delhi with her sculptor-artist husband Subodh Gupta and is known to produce art that reflects on life. The artist said she has taken her son to museums when he felt confused and felt "envious" at the art that her little daughter creates. "Most of us are products of our lives," she said.
A new book published to coincide with a major museum exhibition, that resulted from her exhibition titled "Misdemeanors," at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai was also unveiled by the ambassador.
The book contains essays by the show's curator Sandhini Poddar along with David Elliott and Tsong-Zung-Chang. The bilingual publication in English and Chinese also contains a visual record of the exhibition besides selected earlier works. Incidentally, Kher's husband Subodh Gupta was conferred the same honour in January 2013.
The French government distinction Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is conferred on persons who have distinguished themselves by their creativity in the field of art, culture and literature or for their contribution to the influence of arts in France and throughout the world.
Some of the previous recipients of the award include actors Shahrukh Khan, Nandita Das and Aishwarya Rai, photographer Raghu Rai, theatre personalites Ebrahim Alkazi and the late Habib Tanveer as well as writer Upamanyu Chatterjee.