Hema Hirani Upadhyay
(1972 - 2015)

Hema Hirani Upadhyay

Vadodra, India

Mumbai, India
December 11, 2015

This site is dedicated to Hema Upadhyay.
Hema Upadhyay (born Hema Hirani; 1972 – December 11, 2015) was an Indian artist based in Mumbai. She was known for photography and sculptural installations. She was active from 1998 until her death in 2015.
Born Hema Hirani in Baroda, she met her future husband and fellow artist Chintan Upadhyay in 1992. The couple married in 1998, and settled in Mumbai. They worked together in many exhibitions, before filing for a divorce in 2010. They were officially divorced in 2014. Chintan then moved to Delhi; she lived in their flat on the Juhu-Tara road.
Hema had her first solo exhibition, titled Sweet Sweat Memories, at Gallery Chemould, now Chemould Prescott road (Mumbai), in 2001. The exhibition consisted of mixed media on paper works. In these works she has incorporated her own photographs to communicate her ideas of migration having moved to Bombay in 1998. Hema's paintings were usually characterised by the inclusion of small-collaged photographic self-portraits.
In the 2001 Hema had her first international solo at Artspace, Sydney, and Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, where she exhibited an installation titled The Nymph and the Adult (also exhibited at the 10th International Triennial – India held in New Delhi) she hand sculpted 2000 lifelike cockroaches, infesting the gallery with them. The work was intended to make viewers think about the consequences of military actions.

In 2003, she did a collaborative work titled Made in China, which spoke about mass consumerism, globalisation and a loss of identity through this. Her next collaboration was in 2006 when she collaborated with her mother, Bina Hirani, the work was titled Mum-my and was shown at the Chicago Cultural Centre.
From 2004 onwards, Hema Upadhyay came up with installations that were part of various group shows at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Beijing, China; National Portrait Gallery Canberra, Australia; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, Israel; MACRO museum, Rome, Italy; IVAM, Valencia, Spain; Mart Museum, Italy; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Hanger Bicocca, Milan, Italy; Chicago Cultural Centre, Chicago, USA; Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris, France; Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; Japan Foundation, Tokyo and the Henie Onstad Kunssenter, Oslo, Norway.
She was the only Indian artist to be part of the inaugural exhibition for the Reopening of the MACRO museum, Rome. The exhibition was curated by Luca Massimi Barbero, Hema exhibited her installation titled Where the bees suck, there suck I.
In 2010, Hema was invited for a residency at Atelier Calder, Sache, France. While there, she completed the work Only Memory has Preservatives, this work was inspired by the natural surroundings in Sache, but also reflected ideas that have been part of her practice. Hema tried to replicate the forest in her studio, though not in the literal sense. Using copyright free images of certain trees found in the area, she created a landscape work without using materials from nature.

In 2003 she was part of the Vasl residency in Karachi where she made a work titled Loco foco motto (which she later in 2007 exhibited in a group show at the Hanger Bicocca, Milan, Italy) that spoke about the India-Pakistan divide keeping in mind her own family history related to the partition of India. The works were also a break from her trademark symbolism, they were more craft oriented as she used matchsticks and glue to make chandeliers. Constructed of thousands of un-ignited matchsticks assembled into elaborate chandeliers, these pieces embody an important element of Hindu ritual, symbolising creation and destruction.

Her later works featured patterned surfaces, which quote from Indian spiritual iconography and traditional textile design, titled Killing Site. Dream a wish-wish a dream (2006) was the first large-scale installation that Hema did. At first glance her installation seems to be only a landscape of Bombay; however, it iss actually a statement on the changing landscape by migrants who make Bombay.
Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Haresh Bhambani were killed on Friday, 11 December 2015, reportedly over a financial dispute.

Bhambhani had represented Hema in court cases against her ex-husband Chintan. After filing for a divorce in 2010, Chintan and Hema had lived in different rooms of their Mumbai flat until their divorce in 2014. In 2013, Hema had filed a harassment case against Chintan, accusing him for painting obscene sketches on the walls of their Mumbai flat.Represented by Bhambhani, she lost the case after the court ruled that Chintan's bedroom was his personal space.[1] After their divorce, Chintan moved to Delhi. Bhambani represented Hema in another case seeking alimony: Hema demanded an alimony of ₹ 200,000 per month; but the court reduced that amount to ₹ 40,000 per month.[4] On the day of their murders, Chintan had paid ₹ 200,000 to Bhambhani as part of an alimony payout.
Hema had contracted out her art fabrication work to Vidyadhar Rajbhar (alias Gotu), the owner of Vanshraj Arts. She also stored her artwork at his warehouse. Vidyadhar's family had a close relationship with the family of her ex-husband Chintan. In fact, Vidyadhar's father Vanshraj had named him after Chintan's father. When Vidyadhar's father fell ill and faced financial troubles, Chintan paid for his medical expenses of over ₹ 500,000.
Chintan had also sponsored Vidyadhar's training in fabrication at Jaipur.[8] At the time of her murder, Hema owed Vidyadhar some money. Vidyadhar, who was heavily in debt, hoped that payments from Hema would help him pay off his creditors. He had visited Hema's residence many times to seek the payment, without success.
According to Vidyadhar's associates, Vidyadhar claimed that Hema owed him ₹ 520,000; but Hema claimed that she owed him only ₹ 100,000.[6] When she refused to clear the dues, he called her to his Kandivali warehouse on the pretext of giving her some information that would help him in her case against Chintan. He said that he wanted money in exchange for this information, and Hema took along Bhambhani to examine the evidence.[9] However, Hema's family has alleged that she did not owe any money to Vidyadhar, and suspect that Chintan had a role in planning her murder.
On 11 December, the day of the murders, Hema called her domestic help Lalit Mandal around 6.30pm, informing him that she would have dinner outside. Bhambhani left his Matunga home around 6pm, telling his family that he was going to meet a client in Andheri. The two met at Hema's studio in Andheri. Around 8 pm, they left for Kandivali to meet Vidyadhar. At the warehouse, Vidyadhar was accompanied by his associates Azad Rajbhar, Pradeep Rajbhar and Shiv Kumar Rajbhar (alias Sadhu). They had planned to scare Hema using a chemical-soaked napkin. The chemical is believed to be chloroform (used to clean the moulds of sculptures) or a pesticide (which Vidyadhar procured from his brother). Vidyadhar held Hema from behind, as Azad held the napkin to her face. When Bhambhani intervened, Shiv and Pradeep overpowered him. Initially, they only restrained Bhambhani with ropes and duct tapes. But when they realized that the chemical had killed Hema, they killed Bhambhani for being a witness.
The Rajbhars packed the dead bodies in cardboard boxes that they used to transport artwork. They then transported the bodies to the drain (nullah) in a temp truck driven by Vijay Kumar Rajbhar.[12] Vidyadhar and Shiv then decide to escape to their native village in Uttar Pradesh. They caught a train to Varanasi from Dadar around 9:30 pm. After reaching Itarsi, Vidyadhar told Shiv that he wanted to surrender, and got off the train

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January 10th, 2016
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