Artist Profile: Sunil Gupta

1 March 2022

This month’s Artist Profile focuses on Sunil Gupta, one of the featured artists in the Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme exhibition Captured Beauty, currently on view at Newlyn Art Gallery in Cornwall. 

Sunil Gupta presents his broad oeuvre as a reflection of his own identity and lived experiences. Themes like diaspora, race, homosexuality and HIV are at the core of his powerful photographs.

Born in New Delhi in 1953, he migrated to Canada with his family at the age of fifteen. He studied photography at the New York School for Social Research and later at the Royal College of Art in London. His first pictures were taken around Christopher Street in Manhattan in 1976, where he used his camera as a tool for open expression, capturing both the openness of the gay liberation movement as well as his own ‘coming out’ as an artist.

In 1986, Gupta returned to India to produce Exiles, commissioned by The Photographers' Gallery in London. In this series, he photographed gay men in front of emblematic tourist sites in New Delhi, capturing intimate portraits in open, public spaces.

Through this project, Gupta aimed to give visibility to the Indian gay community at a time when homosexuality was highly stigmatised and still criminalised in India, revealing the tensions between tradition and modernity.


This idea was born from the desire to see himself and others like him represented in art history: 

‘It had always seemed to me that art history seemed to stop at Greece and never properly dealt with gay issues from another place. Therefore it became imperative to create some images of gay Indian men; they didn't seem to exist. […] At the time they seemed particularly vulnerable as a group and didn't have a recognisable place in society. As a gay man, I felt I couldn't live in such a repressive atmosphere. Now there is a claim for more visibility but there is still a shortage of cultural production.’

Gupta, whose career spans over four decades, has played an instrumental role in raising awareness around the realities concerning the fight for international gay rights.

The India Gate belongs to this series and is currently on display at the Newlyn Art Gallery as part of the exhibition Captured Beauty curated by Abi Hutchinson, Artistic Director of Black Voices Cornwall.

This photograph is a key piece in a narrative that aims for ethnically diverse visitors to feel seen and for white communities to have an insight into the lived experiences of ethnic minorities in contemporary times. 


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.