Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Merry going around in Mumbai

A recent visit to Mumbai in the first weekend of Feb, planned solely to visit the ‘India and world’ exhibition at the CSVSM, turned out to be a very delightful ‘Merry going around’ visit. I had very little agenda for the trip other than visiting the exhibition which was a joint effort of the British council and the National Museum , Delhi- as a result it was a rare opportunity to see some rare Museum pieces from different museums across India and from Britain, all under one roof. One other agenda was to catch the art on display at the Mumbai airport. But it turned out to be a very fortuitous time to be in the city with so much happening in the city around the Kala Ghoda festival. I am writing this post just to convey what a beautiful art rain that i was soaking in over two lovely days.

On arrival at the airport, i wanted to visit the art museum at the airport. I took my time walking thru the corridors of the airport leading to the exit, chewing on the gorgeous art works on display. The corridor seemed to be growing too long for me to keep ambling through all the works. I approached the help desk near the baggage collection place. The young personnel posted there, proved to be very kind and helpful. I asked him if he could arrange for a safari through the art museum. Though he seemed not to know much about the service, he made many queries and finally landed up on the right person. I was told the safari could be arranged during my next visit for departure. I was asked to report a little early for the departure. The safari, i was told, might take an hour. My departure was early in the day, and even though it was an odd time to be doing a safari i was assured it could be arranged. That assured, i moved on to my next item on the agenda.

As I started off from my room near Church gate station, walking into MG road, from Flora fountain, the festivities of Kala Ghoda and the exuberance of art galleries in Mumbai slowly caught upon me. It was a pleasant feeling that i was walking past the Jehangir gallery. I had always heard so much about the events in it that i could not resist checking into the gallery. The gallery is an assortment of many spaces each qualified to operated separately as a gallery space. Of the many works on display on the day of my visit, works by Subhash Babhulkar, from Nagpur were different and appealed to me.

Stepping outside the Gallery, i walked into the main venue of the Kala Ghoda festival, where i got to walk through some very spirited art installations celebrating the idea and theme of the festival. Just at the periphery of this venue was the Goethe institute, that was hosting an exhibition ‘ State of housing’, and it had Ranjit Hoskote as one of its curators- a reason good enough for me not to miss an opportunity to engage with RH’s work . I could only afford a very rushed walk through the exhibition. However a studio space in the show , where Nfdc documentaries on the subject were playing in a loop, few scenes from the docu ‘Burning sun’ by SNS Sastry made a special impact on me.

Hurrying out of Goethe, i could enter the CSVSM campus, and i had to walk through a space where there was an exhibition of works by studio potters and alongside this there was also a space for children to get their hands on clay and turn the potter’s wheel, guided by artisans. A Little further up towards the museum, there was the Coomarasamy hall of the CSVSM, that hosted a film festival. I made a note of the films that were listed, may be for some other time.

Having thus finally reached the gate of CSVSM and having gained a feel of the place and the events around it, i wanted to step out and catch a quick bite for lunch. But as soon as i stepped out there was the NGMA standing tall before me- a place i have again heard so much about and have always wanted to visit; now lunch had to wait further.

NGMA was hosting an exhibition called Nature Embedded- a Design Technology Experience. It had just opened the previous day. The show was an immersive meditation on Nature, and design ideas that invoke nature, thereby seeking to re-awaken the nature – culture bond. In my hurried viewing of the show- an exhibit which displayed a video featuring perspective views of dog, bird, fish was interesting; Scroll hangings featuring calligraphic take on nature and posters featuring quotes on nature was engaging too; A photo series featuring Kumbh mela seemed strangely out of place. I looked forward to taking away some publication based on the exhibition, but it was not available as of then.

Just as I was winding up my sojourn in NGMA, I saw that they were making arrangements for a talk. I thought it would be nice to listen to the curator, Dr. Ajanta Sen of IIT Bombay, talk about the show and decided to stay back. And to my further delight it wasn’t a talk by the curator but a talk by Paola Antonelli, Curator from MoMA, New York. She was going to talk on the title- ‘ Role of Design in connecting with the outside world and The Museum as a Facilitator’

It was a great privilege listening to someone with such a vast exposure to international projects, talk about her experiences and sharing her insights about Curation. Her talk proved to be a wonderful window to look at the works of many artists and designers, the working of MoMA and finally, also gave us a sneak peek into the The Milano Triennale 2019, she is curating. It was sad that i could not stay back for an interaction with her, as i had to push off to the CSVSM auditorium to listen to Dr Goswami talk about the subject of Representation of time in Indian Art.

There was little more time in hand before the talk and i used it steal a look at a gallery in the Neighbourhood of the kala Ghoda that hosted a show of Nudes by different artists. The show was closing that day, and i did not want to miss it. The show was mostly about the works of FN souza- whose nudes very painted in a bizarre style, and also had works of K G Subramani and Laxma Goud.

I was looking forward to the talk by Goswami, an opportunity to listen to someone who has written so much about Indian art- a crowning achievement in itself that topped an illustrious service in the Indian Administrative services. At this talk i was also sweetly surprised and felt blessed to listen to Ranjit Hoslkote,  who has made a mark for himself through his writings, critical writings and curatorial ventures, introduce Dr Goswami, pepping it up in his own neat way.

Dr Goswami’s talk hovered around the Rajasthani paintings and how time was represented in them. He indulged his audience with joy in narrating the puranic episodes to illustrate the scenes in the painting. He pointed out how in many of these paintings the same character was shown frozen in movement across two different time frames to give us the idea of time elapsing. This insight would certainly help anyone appreciate Rajasthani paintings better.

I rushed out of Dr Goswami’s talk, to attend a talk at the Goethe institute on Restoration of Heritage structures. This talk was very instructive on how a good restoration process takes a lot of time and how it is to be done taking in to account the history of the place. When this talk closed there was still time to catch a dance performance at NGMA, but they had changed the venue and hence i took a stroll down to the Gateway of India and a catch a glimpse of the well lit structure and also a travelling art installation resembling the moon. It was a big silvery disc hanging from a giant supporting structure.

The next day i headed straight to CSVSM, hoping to join a guided walk around the India and World exhibition. I was fortunate to get a guide all to myself. The Docent, who, i gathered, was pursuing a Museology course at the museum, proved to be very well informed and very efficient at taking me around the exhibition giving suitable, historical and curatorial contexts to the exhibits.

I was very impressed with the Docent’s knowledgeable ways so much that i wished he showed me around the whole of CSVSM. But that was not to be,and i had to settle for an audio tour of the bigger exhibition. However i did not have much time, as i had to rush some 10 kms to attend a talk 'Clay in Converstaion' that had Madhvi Subramaniam among others, talking about the forthcoming ceramics Triennale.  I did not want to miss an opportunity to listen to an artist of international repute, working with ceramics. The talk was at a revamped building called G5A in a complex that was earlier spinning mills. I was duly educated by the cab driver, who dropped me at the venue, that this was the place of a horrific rape crime that was in the news some time back. At the talk i was treated to glimpses of the works and career of some of the leading ceramic artists in India.

After the talk i grabbed a veg roll for lunch from what looked like the manufacturing facility of a famous food delivery brand and headed to Piramal Art gallery for a talk cum performance, Drawing a line through Landscape by Nikhil Chopra. There was a mix up in the venue and was delighted to be joined by two more folks who were also lost and on the trail to the event at Piramal. We headed to the new venue, which also happened to be at walking distance from Bhau Daji Lad museum, which was my next stop for a walk through of their contemporary exhibits, called Assymetrical Objects, of artist works that included Jitish Kallat, Reena Kallat and Shilpa Gupta.

Later that evening had some wonderful poetry readings in store for me and another opportunity to listen to Ranjith Hoskote, this time in  a panel hosted by Nancy Adjania. The panel also had other wonderful artist like Shilpa Gupta. The talk kept mentioning an exhibit on at a park opp Victoria building, and In what little time i had before closing hours of the night, i hurried to catch this show at the park. 

But it was sad that the curator of the show had decided not to reveal names of the artists and there was no write up (again a curatorial decision) against the art pieces on display to help the viewer appreciate the work. I am of the opinion that such an intervention might have worked in a cubical space, but not in this park.

I had to retire in time to bed so that i can start early the next day to catch my flight back home and before that take a tour of the Art displayed in the Airport.
An appointment for this tour that i had made on my arrival came good and thanks to some smart people at work, even in those early hours of the day i could take my long desired tour of the art in the Airport.

I hope to write separately and in more detail about each of these events in this eventful visit.

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