A few minutes away from the mountainous landfill in Okhla is the enormous, open-air space of Tughlakabad’s Inland Container Depot (ICD). The drive to it from central Delhi is usually choked with traffic, reason enough to put anyone in a foul mood. But when a row of brightly-painted shipping containers appear from behind heavily loaded trucks, the route-induced tiredness falls away.

These containers, painted by Australian artist Reko Rennie, are part of St+art India Foundation’s WIP: The Street Art Show, which began on 1 February in the Capital. A total of 25 artists are displaying their work on containers. They include Bengaluru-based visual artist Shilo Shiv Suleman, Delhi’s graffiti artist Daku, Borondo from Spain, Senkoe from Mexico, Suiko from Japan and Nafir from Iran.

Organized in collaboration with the Container Corporation of India (Concor), the show is using 100 shipping containers that usually transport fruits and vegetables. “After the show wraps up, they will go back to doing just that," says Tanushree Singh, the festival manager. But they will also be taking a whole lot of art with them, for the containers will not be scrubbed clean.

St+art India’s effort is to bring art to busy cities in novel ways. Last year, it had invited crochet artist Olek from Poland and street artist PCO from India to paint night shelters in Delhi. This year, for Work In Progress, or WIP, the group has transformed the ICD’s 31,200 sq. ft area into a walk-through art gallery by arranging Concor’s containers into clusters.

“Using shipping containers for street art is not a super original idea," says Giulia Ambrogi, festival curator and one of the co-founders of the St+art India Foundation. “But we have designed the whole experience differently."

Working with French architect Pierre Guyot, in consultation with the design studio, Studio Lotus, Ambrogi and fellow co-founder and artistic director Hanif Kureshi assigned each cluster as a canvas for the artists. The biggest cluster is Rennie’s. Called Original Aboriginal, the work uses 16 containers—a few open on both sides so you can walk through them to enter or exit the show.

Painter Shabbu at WIP: The Street Art Show.
Painter Shabbu at WIP: The Street Art Show.

A simple but particularly striking piece is by Painter Shabbu, who has painted signboards for more than 1,000 fruit-juice stalls in Delhi. His piece is dedicated to the banana—his container’s open door has an illustration of the fruit in bright yellow. On the inside of the door, the word “banana" is painted many times in fluorescent yellow and green on a pink background.

A seemingly disjointed mural by Amitabh Kumar reveals itself to be a three-dimensional piece when you stand at a particular place, while Dutch calligraffiti (an art form that combines calligraphy and graffiti) artist Niels Shoe Meulman’s canvas features a self-composed poem.

Every Sunday this month, St+art will hold curated hour-long tours from noon-1pm and 4-5pm. Graphic design and street-art workshops will also be held on these days, with live bands performing in the open space.

WIP: The Street Art Show is open to the public till 28 February (Thursday-Sunday), at the Inland Container Depot, Tughlakabad, Okhla Phase 1. For details and the full schedule, visit www.st-artindia.org

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