On 29 May, the giant face of a baby was unveiled at the traffic signal at Marine Drive in Nariman Point, Mumbai. Sculptor Chintan Upadhyay’s newest fibreglass sculpture juxtaposes iconography derived from classical miniatures with scenes from contemporary city life, including the 26/11 terror attacks, imprinted on the brightly coloured, 10ft head.

The commissioned installation is part of a public art initiative by the RPG group, whose companies operate in businesses such as technology, power, infrastructure and pharmaceuticals, led by avid collector Harsh Goenka. A few more are to follow—a 13ft stainless steel figure of a dabbawala outside the police commissioner’s office in Crawford Market, and two installations, including an aluminium and chromium alloy carbon-fibre face of Sachin Tendulkar’s at Worli. The installations, created by Valay Shende and Jaideep Mehrotra, respectively, are expected to be unveiled on 11 June.

Valay Shende’s dabbawala installation in progress.
Valay Shende’s dabbawala installation in progress.

Thus while the aesthetic quality of many of these pieces is debatable, it is interesting to note that despite the paucity of space, the city is nevertheless turning into a site. Anupa Mehta, who has curated the RPG Art Foundation’s initiative, hopes that the effort will infuse logic into the city’s public artworks. “The landscape of Bombay is dotted with a lot of random sculptures. We see the city as an open-air museum that has the potential to offer an overview of contemporary Indian art. We were keen to create a synergy. These aren’t simply meant to beautify the space, but also provoke the viewer," she says.

Jaideep Mehrotra’s Sachin installation in progress.

Goenka’s argument is that the pieces need to be accessible to the common man, who doesn’t understand art the way a collector would. He intends to commission more public installations. “We wanted to create works that would be iconic. All the commissioned pieces approach the idea of Mumbai in very different ways."

Mehta says the brief given to the artists stipulated that the works must engage with the city. “They are not just representations, but also bring up other issues, such as that of urbanization and what affects the city."

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