The Mumbai Gallery Weekend

In a unique occurrence, nine of Mumbai’s leading galleries dealing with contemporary art came together at the Taj Lands End hotel in Bandra at the beginning of this month to exhibit a selection of works by the artists they represent.

These galleries, situated in and around Fort and Colaba – the city’s unofficial art hubs – came together last year under the banner ‘Mumbai Art District’ to collaborate in an attempt to attract wider audiences and work together to create initiatives and opportunities for these audiences to engage with contemporary art. Earlier initiatives of the collective include staying open on the fourth Sunday of every month, and closing late on the second Thursday of every month, often using this time to preview exhibitions or for other special programming like film screenings.

This year, nine of the member galleries decided to move to the city’s suburbs for a weekend, in an attempt to move contemporary art out of its usual habitat. Chatterjee and Lal, Chemould Prescott Road, Gallery Maskara, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, The Guild, Lakeeren, Sakshi Art Gallery, Project 88 and Volte put together a striking group show at the Taj Lands End in Bandra on 31 March and 1 April, 2012. The aim of this initiative was to broaden the horizons of both exhibitors and viewers, make contemporary art more accessible, and of course, tap a new clientele.

The banquet hall of a leading hotel would seem an awkward venue to exhibit and view art, but the space design by Rooshad Shroff ensured that the viewing experience was not only to international gallery standards, but also experimental. Unlike art fairs, where each gallery rents a booth and exhibits their wares, the galleries chose to make this event more like a group exhibition so that visitors could engage with each work before discovering which gallery it belonged to. This was a refreshing change from the categorized compartments of art fairs, and, in some cases, the juxtaposition of works from different galleries offered them new insight and interpretation.

Representatives from each gallery were personally present at the venue to guide viewers through the works, explaining their nuances, and to answer queries. As this was not a curated exhibition, the works on display were varied and eclectic: Imran Qureshi’s intricate patterns were shown by Lakeeren alongside Ranbir Kaleka’s unique video projections on canvas, shown by Volte. Manjunath Kamath’s suite of animated watercolors, shown by Sakshi Gallery, also drew excited responses from viewers.

Aaditi Joshi’s painstakingly crafted and semi-burnt polythene bag installation was showcased by Gallery Maskara; Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke made their contribution with works by Sharmistha Ray and Tanya Goel; and Chatterjee and Lal showed five works by Nityan Unnikrishnan, amongst others.

Rohini Devasher’s hypnotic looped video was presented by Project 88; and the Guild Gallery played showed work by T.V. Santhosh and Balaji Ponna. Gigi Scaria’s ‘Amusement Park’, presented by Chemould Prescott Road, summed up the weekend: a large digital print that in part showed the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, which connects North and South Mumbai.

The response to this gallery weekend was optimistic; visitors came alone, with friends and with children. There were questions, answers and conversations, and the exhibition, in the opinion of many participating gallerists, did introduce contemporary art to people who might not be regular gallery visitors.

Collaborative efforts of this kind are a huge step forward in broadening accessibility to art in this city. Over the last few years contemporary Indian art has been shown in varied venues, with mixed results. While the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) houses part of its collection in a South Delhi mall, art galleries like Nature Morte have opened branches in leading hotels. This effort to house art in venues hitherto untapped is heartening, and we hope we see more of it in the near future.

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