Vivan Sundaram (b. 1943) studied painting at M.S. University of Baroda and the Slade School of Art, London. He gravitated from his accomplished practice as a painter in the late 1980s towards working with photography and video, assemblage and installation.
Since 1990 he has made installations that include sculpture, photographs and video: Memorial (1993, 2014), in response to communal violence in Bombay, History Project (1998), a monumental site-specific installation at the Victoria Memorial, Calcutta; and continuing work on his family, The Sher-Gil Archive (1995) and Re-take of Amrita (2001–06). A series of exhibitions using found objects include Trash (2008), GAGAWAKA: Making Strange (2011) and Postmortem (2013). He coauthored 409 Ramkinkars (2015) with theatre directors, and Meanings of Failed Action: Insurrection 1946 with a cultural theorist and sound designer. In 2018, a retrospective of Vivan's work, ‘Step inside and you are no longer a stranger’ was exhibited at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, followed by a survey exhibition, ‘Disjunctures’, curated by Deepak Ananth at Haus der Kunst, Munich (2018); and Install: black gold, terraoptics and the work of termites (2019) PHOTOINK, New Delhi.
Vivan Sundaram was one of 30 artists specially commissioned to make new work to mark the Sharjah Biennial's 30th anniversary edition, Thinking Historically in the Present. His photography-based project 'Six Stations of a Life Pursued' (2023) was exhibited posthumously at the Sharjah Biennial 15. His earlier work 'Memorial' is currently on display at the Tate Modern, London (2023).
Sundaram has exhibited widely in India and abroad including in the Biennales of Havana, Johannesburg, Kwangju, Taipei, Sharjah, Shanghai, Sydney, Seville and Berlin, and the Asia-Pacific Triennial, Brisbane. He has organized artists’ workshops and seminars at the Kasauli Art Centre from 1976 to 1991; contributed variously to the Journal of Arts & Ideas (1981–99); and curated several exhibitions for the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT). He is a founding member of all these organizations. Vivan Sundaram is the editor of a two-volume book, Amrita Sher-Gil: a self-portrait in letters & writings (2010). He is managing trustee, with his sister Navina Sundaram, of the Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation (SSAF), set up in 2016.