Mithu Sen (b. 1971)
An artist known for her use of various techniques and media, Mithu Sen explores conceptual ideas through her drawings, sculptures, photographs, collages, films, performances and writing.
Born in Burdwan, West Bengal, Sen grew up in small towns across the state. She received her Bachelor’s (1995) and Master’s (1997) degrees in painting from Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan, followed by a postgraduate programme at the Glasgow School of Art (2001).
As a student, Sen frequently performed on the streets of Kolkata. In the early 2000s, she worked across media to avoid being pigeonholed by the art market. After her work gained popularity during the Indian Art Boom, Sen began an ongoing interactive project titled Freemithu (2007–). In this publicly accessible, online, interactive project that began with a public gift-giving ceremony at KHOJ International Artists’ Association, Delhi, Sen critiques the market-driven culture of the art world, as well as touching on themes of gift-giving as transactional and transnational.
Her work often dissects language, as explored in her Unbelonging series, which is based on word association webs between words prefixed with “un-,” such as “unbody,” “uncommunication” and “unmiss”. She explored this theme further in her 2018 exhibition titled UnMYthU at Chemould Prescott Road, through staging impromptu performances to accompany the visual collection. She was the Bose Pacia Artist in Residence, New York (2006), during which time she produced It’s Good to Be Queen (2006), a site-specific installation that explored themes such as home and hospitality. She won the Skoda Art Prize for Indian Contemporary Art (2011).
Sen’s work has been exhibited since the late 1990s throughout India and abroad, including Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi (2008); Tate Modern, London (2013); and the Venice Biennale (2019). She has also published written work, including Bashmati Sarir Bagan Ba Gaan (1995–2005) and Ma Jai Boluk (2000). She is currently represented by several galleries, including Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai; Nature Morte, New Delhi; Gallerie Krinzinger, Vienna; and Gallerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris.
She is married to contemporary artist Samit Das. As of writing, she lives and works out of Delhi.
Aristarkhova, Irina, and Mithu Sen. Arrested Welcome: Hospitality in Contemporary Art, 111–34. London: University of Minnesota Press, 2020. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctv1220r8x.8.
Deepak, Sukant. “A Brief History of Possession with Mithu Sen.” IANS English, March 2020.
Dhar, Jyoti. “Mithu Sen: Poetry, Beauty and Androgyny.” Art Asia Pacific, September 2015.
Ghoshal, Somak. “The Un-Making of Mithu Sen.” Mint, February 23, 2018 https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/FA36mHz7DS4ZELo6SFugXP/The-unmaking-of-Mithu-Sen.html.
Saffronart. “Mithu Sen.” Accessed August 31, 2021. https://www.saffronart.com/artists/mithu-sen.
Sen, Mithu. 2007. “Freemithu (2007-∞).” Accessed August 31, 2021. https://mithusen.com/projects/freemithu-2007-ongoing/.