It was a simple premise: Everything emanates from the art, we are about the art, and raising consciousness about possibilities in art. As a gallery, you are always waiting for people to make the effort to come to you. Here, we are making the effort to take art to people,” says Abhay Maskara of Gallery Maskara, Mumbai.
This coming together of nine Colaba galleries—Chatterjee & Lal, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Gallery Maskara, Chemould Prescott Road, The Guild, Lakeeren, Project 88, Sakshi Gallery and Volte—in one soon-to-be-annual show, under the collaborative corporate funding of Citibank and Taj Lands End, from 31 March-1 April at the Taj Lands End, Bandra, Mumbai, is a first. Indian contemporary art, which has hitherto extended the courtesy of clinking champagne glasses at each others’ openings, has not quite held hands at one.
Geetha Mehra of Sakshi Gallery explains the need to find a new audience: “There is this great divide between south Mumbai and the suburbs and there is always this idea that art is elitist. The nine of us have been extending gallery hours and staying open on Sundays so people from other parts of town can come across, so the aim is to allow a new audience in.”
Not all the artworks are on sale. Some are especially commissioned works, while others are drawn from private collections. Maskara says, “It is more a gesture than a sales pitch.”
Art merchants: The Colaba gallerists have come together in solidarity. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
But why nine of more than 20 galleries in Colaba? Some, like Chemould, are around 50 years old, and others, between two years to a decade old.
Arshiya Lokhandwala, of Gallery Lakeeren, says: “It’s come together quite organically. It comes from a basic respect for each other. The nine of us represent the avante-garde in terms of contemporary art practice, so in terms of criticality itself that links us.”
The banquet room of a five-star hotel is not exactly a space conducive to art. So the collective has invited Rooshad Shroff, who has a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard University, US. Shroff walks around marking flexi-walls or measuring the distance from an artwork that makes for optimum viewing. “It’s not a trade fair, so people are going from artwork to artwork rather than from gallery to gallery,” he says.
The gallerists eschewed a curator, depending on their own synergy, and the show has no specific schema.
Tushar Jiwarajka of Volte is celebrating Bandra’s Bollywood connection with the moving image with artists Ranbir Kaleka and Sheba Chhachhi, and celebrity photographer David LaChapelle. Mortimer Chatterjee from Chatterjee & Lal—which is showing Sadanand Shirke, along with artists from other cities in mediums and formats such as photography and tabletop—says, “There is a common language visually which we all speak, so there should be lots of talking points between the works.”
For Shireen Gandhy of Chemould Prescott Road, who lives down the road from the venue but has never transacted art in that space, the city itself became a trigger. “I found that I had a work by Gigi Scaria, and it just fits in, and that was a starting point for me.”
Lokhandwala is excited by one of her larger works: “Anita Dube is doing a new work for me—a photograph with root works on it about Hiroshima, which is a 11x7ft installation.”
Project 88 has stayed minimalistic. “We’ve chosen works which are spare and experimentative. So we have a video art, a painting on a new material like Duraline, a graphic artist like Sarnath Banerjee and Tejal Shah, who lives in Bandra,” says Sree Goswami of Project 88.
Usha Mirchandani of Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, who has overseen the project along with Maskara, points out coves and niches along the passageway which have lent themselves to activation by newer works. “As we began to work, the space itself began to suggest itself for works, and we’ve commissioned accordingly,” she says.
Mumbai Gallery Weekend is on view at Taj Lands End on 30 March (by invitation), 31 March (1-8 pm) and 1 April (11am-6pm).