Sunil Gupta: Friends and Lovers – Coming Out in Montréal in the ‘70s

Exhibition Dates: April 21 – May 26, 2018
Opening Reception: Saturday, April 28, 2-5pm

In this exhibition, Gupta reaches into his image archive to describe his assimilation into Canada via an early embrace of Montréal’s gay liberation movement and the development of a new family – an extended gay family. These themes of family and integration were first explored by Gupta in his “Social Security” exhibition at the Showroom in London in 1998, an earlier archival project that explored his Indian family’s migration to Montréal in 1969, but which distinctly avoided the underlying and developing friction that he was simultaneously coming out as gay. Now, Gupta fills the gaps in his history by inviting us to see the other side of his life, and what occurred in the community that would help shape the person he is today.

In the 1970s, Gupta’s apartment was coincidentally located near the roots of the Gay McGill movement, so it became an informal hub where people gathered to hang out and talk openly. He began to make pictures for the fledgeling newspaper Gay-Zette – capturing the aftermath of the Aquarius Sauna fire, the facades of bars, early gay liberation marches, and other significant moments. Gupta’s photographic hobby had suddenly gained a purpose by documenting the people and places around him. His slightly bemused parents visited almost daily, but they did not understand his situation and assumed their son was in a temporary phase. It was not a phase, he never went to live with them, and never ‘settled down’ in their eyes as a proper Indian son. Instead, Gupta followed his lover farther and farther away; first to New York, then to London, with his expanding gay family everywhere.

Sunil Gupta (b. 1953, India) is a photographer, artist, educator, and curator currently enrolled in a doctoral programme at the University of Westminster. Educated at the Royal College of Art, he has been involved with independent photography as a critical practice for many years focusing on race, migration, and queer issues. Gupta’s latest book, Delhi: Communities of Belonging, was published by The New Press, New York in 2016. His exhibition “Dissent and Desire” is on display at the Contemporary Art Museum Houston from January through April 2018. His work has been exhibited in many important group shows including “Paris, Bombay, Delhi...” at the Pompidou Centre, Paris in 2011, and at the Tate Britain in 2017. Gupta is a visiting professor at University of Creative Arts, Farnham, and a visiting tutor at both the Royal College of Art, London and the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. He is also the lead curator for the Houston FotoFest 2018 Biennial. Gupta’s work can be found in many private and public collections including: George Eastman House, Rochester; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; Tate Britain, London; Harvard University, Cambridge; and Museum of Modern Art, New York.