Despite Mumbai’s rich legacy of art and culture, I have always wondered why the city lacks an international-standard art fair. After all, this is where the country’s premier art education institute, Sir J.J. School of Art is located; where the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group of M. F. Husain, F. N. Souza, S. H. Raza, and others was based; and it is where many leading Indian artists come from, whether it’s Bhupen Khakhar or Gieve Patel or Atul Dodiya. Add to this, the spate of new galleries in the city like Gallery XXL, Gallery 47A, Art and Charlie, recent openings of Mumbai outposts of the venerable DAG and Kolkata’s Experimenter Gallery, regular art walks by Art & Wonderment, and much more.
This parallels the growing eminence of Indian and South Asian art on the world stage. “The Indian art market is showing an upward growth across board, whether it’s the primary market or high valuations at auctions or uptick in grants and support to artists. In fact, 2022 was the highest valuation for the modern and contemporary Indian art market (an eye-popping USD 144.3 million), surpassing the previous peak in 2008,” says Minal Vazirani, co-founder and president of Saffronart, one of India’s leading international auction houses.
This strong showing and the burgeoning art scene in Mumbai was an impetus to debut Art Mumbai, a four-day extravaganza of Indian and South Asian modern and contemporary art. Promoted by Minal and Dinesh Vazirani (co-founder and CEO of Saffronart), Nakul Dev Chawla (founder and CEO of Global Art Hub, New Delhi), and Conor Macklin (director of Grosvenor Gallery, London), Art Mumbai opens this week at the iconic Mahalaxmi Racecourse. And it’s a splashy debut in true Mumbai style, featuring more than 50 Indian and international galleries, 300 established and upcoming artists, and nearly 2,000 artworks. Exhibiting galleries include the Who’s Who of Mumbai’s art world such as Chemould Prescott Road, Chatterjee & Lal, Galerie Isa, Jhaveri Contemporary, Tarq, and others. Joining them are galleries from New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, London, New York, and Dubai, including Aicon Contemporary, DAG, Experimenter, Nature Morte, The Guild, Vadhera Art Gallery, Volte, to name just a few.
Amongst contemporary art, you will find stalwarts such as Bharti Kher, Jitish Kallat, and Subodh Gupta at Nature Morte, Anju Dodiya and Baiju Parthan at The Guild, and Raghava KK’s stunning work ‘The Churning of the Cosmic Oceans’ at Volte. On the other hand, Tarq’s booth focuses on early career artists while Gallery XXL stays on brand with a salon-style show titled ‘Clusterflux’ with works by urban and street artists like AIKO, Daku, Guesswho, and Vayeda Brothers. The latter have an eye-catching ‘Urban Forest’ incorporating techniques of Warli painting to depict an urban landscape.
Maximum City also plays a starring role at many galleries — for example, Chemould Prescott Road reflects Mumbai’s history of cinema and art through the photo-series ‘The Return of Phantom Lady’ by Pushpamala N, while PHOTOINK has a fabulous collection of black-and-white Bombay photographs by Raghu Rai and Ketaki Sheth. Over at Vadhera Art Gallery, curator Anish Gawande took inspiration from Mumbai’s libraries and reading rooms to present a reinterpretation of what art would look like in reading spaces — some highlights include a bench created by Atul Dodiya as a tribute to Bhupen Khakhar and one of the last artworks created by Gieve Patel before his death earlier this month.
Elsewhere at Art Mumbai, you will find all the modern masters at DAG’s ‘Iconic Masterpieces’ collection — from M.F. Husain and M.V. Dhurandhar to Raja Ravi Varma and Jamini Roy — while Dhoomimal Gallery showcases Souza, Raza, Satish Gujral, and more. Don’t miss the Sculpture Garden with works by Arzan Khambatta, Dhruva Mistry, Phanendra Nath Chaturvedi, and others. If it all seems overwhelming, Art & Wonderment is on hand with scheduled guided walks through the day (pre-registration required).
Art Mumbai has also partnered with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art as a presenting partner for a range of thought-provoking panel discussions. This speaker series includes ‘Women to Watch’ where five women artists will be in discussion with Ilene Gutman, deputy director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC, while Kiran Nadar and others will delve into the ‘Making of a Museum’, moderated by Asad Lalljee. Obviously, Bollywood will make its presence felt with Karan Johar (the cultural ambassador of Art Mumbai) in a freewheeling chat on art, culture, and cinema with Dinesh Vazirani. And if you feel peckish in the middle of all that art hopping, head over to the food court for a bite at Mag St. Café and a fortifying coffee at Subko. And there’s more — expect immersive experiences in textiles and craft, book launches, stand-up comedy performances, and a VIP deck by Soho House Mumbai. So, go get your art fix this weekend at Art Mumbai!
Dates: 16th to 19th November, 2023
Location: Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai