Mumbai: From innovation in auctions to private museum

In December, SaffronArt opened a new exhibition space, the first of its kind in Mumbai. It was created specifically as a venue for auctions, which differentiates it from most other auctions in Mumbai.

Mumbai | Updated: January 1, 2016 2:21 am
Saffronart was founded as a global company in the year 2000. (Express Photo) Saffronart was founded as a global company in the year 2000. (Express Photo)

Saffronart, Mumbai’s leading auction house, is preparing for a few changes, come 2016. In December, it opened a new exhibition space, the first of its kind in Mumbai. It was created specifically as a venue for auctions, which differentiates it from most other auctions in Mumbai that take place in five-star hotels.

“Having our own exhibition space will allow us to hold auctions more frequently, and of very different types of items,” says Dinesh Vazirani, one of the co-founders. Now, Saffronart is dealing with jewellery and antiquities in addition to paintings. “There’s so many more items we can explore — I’d love to display vintage cars, for instance.”

Saffronart was founded as a global company in 2000 by Minal and Dinesh Vazirani. For a long time, Saffronart concentrated solely on its online presence and only held its first live auction in Mumbai in 2013. It was the first online auction space in India that openly displayed the prices of the artwork and the bidding process. Soon, customers came flooding in, tech-savvy and interested in purchasing Indian art, and the Vazirani’s success encouraged them to innovate further.

The bidding process is managed so well that it is able to combine room, online and phone bidding during auctions and even offers downloadable mobile applications that allow live streaming of auctions. Yet another draw to customers is how responsive Saffronart has been to the art collectors’ needs.

The auction house provides information, appraisals and valuations on art pieces and collections, hosts private sales and even offers specialised art storage. Vazirani is planning to develop the exhibition and auction space into, in his words, more of a “place of information dissemination”. It will have a library, which Vazirani hopes to make Mumbai’s best in arts and culture. “The space will become a center for learning, discourse and seminars for the art community.”

Mumbai’s second private museum

The Piramal Museum of Art in Lower Parel. (Express Photo by Pradip Das) The Piramal Museum of Art in Lower Parel. (Express Photo by Pradip Das)

IN the glass-and-concrete environs of Lower Parel, once business hours are over, there isn’t much one can do, besides shopping or going to one of the trendy eateries that have mushroomed over the last couple of years.

But that could very well change with the opening of the Piramal Museum of Art, a 7000-square foot space that opened its doors this November. One of the only two private museums in the city — the other being the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation gallery inside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya — the Piramal Museum has been set up by the Piramal family to house the collection of modern Indian art that they have built over the last eight years.

Its central location and convenient closing hours (9 pm on weekdays and 8 pm on weekends) makes it a great cultural destination for working professionals, who otherwise struggle to find after-work activities.

‘Smriti’, the first exhibition in the musuem, is curated from the Piramal collection and seeks to encapsulate 300 years of Indian art history. Thus we see Mughal miniatures, paintings by colonial era artists, works by Raja Ravi Varma, Bengal school artists like Abanindranath Tagore and Nandlal Bose, Bombay Progressive works by V S Gaitonde,

F N Souza, S H Raza, K H Ara and paintings by other modern greats such as Amrita Sher-Gil and Akbar Padamsee.The plan right now is to host a different exhibition every three months.

Ashvin Rajagopalan, director of the museum adds, “We plan to curate exhibitions of various subjects and themes by borrowing and collaborating with other museums and collections. For an honest disbursement of knowledge, it is important that we make available multi-pronged exhibitions.”

The museum also plans to host educational activities like talks and panel discussions on a regular basis.

Baking an experiment

The revamped St Jude Bakery. (Express Photo by: Dilip Kagda) The revamped St Jude Bakery. (Express Photo by: Dilip Kagda)

When St Jude Bakery, a landmark in Ranwar village, a stone’s throw away from Birdsong Café on Waroda Road, shut down late last year, most locals from this chiefly Catholic neighbourhood feared that it would be replaced by a highrise, taking down with the structure a sense of nostalgia and a slice of Bandra’s history. While Riyaaz Amlani’s idea was to build his new residence in its place when he purchased it, the restaurateur instead converted the bakery floor into an experimental hybrid space. St Jude Bakery has since been offered its façade for artists to paint vibrant graffiti as part of St + Art Festival earlier this year, and has been the venue of a handful of art exhibitions and plays. Amlani, along with his chef Gresham Fernandes, hosts at the venue Gypsy Kitchen pop-ups and Dubious Dinners, properties that attract food connoisseurs from across the city. At the same time, he allows access to this space to creative minds for experimental works in the field of the arts, perhaps in keeping with what the patron saint after whom the bakery is named is known for.

A New Art Map

Inside the Nine Fish Art Gallery. (Express Photo) Inside the Nine Fish Art Gallery. (Express Photo)

ONE complaint about the city’s art scene is that it is too South Mumbai-centric, with most of the major art galleries located in the Fort-Colaba region. The opening of Nine Fish, the city’s latest contemporary art gallery, in Byculla — the heart of Mumbai’s historic mill industry — should help in putting one of the oldest areas of the city on the art map. The new gallery is situated inside the Great Eastern Mills, and uses the commodious dimensions of the erstwhile textile mill to full advantage, covering 1,367 sq feet, with a ceiling height of approximately 19 feet.The gallery curator is Dr Anurag Kanoria, who also heads the Great Eastern Home, a destination store well known for its collection of fine furniture, antiques and art. The store is already an important destination for the city’s well-heeled denizens. According to Kanoria, Nine Fish has been envisioned as must-visit destination for any art lover and it will display “serious art” from across the world. The inaugural exhibition, on till January 10, is a group show called ‘Liminal Affinities’ featuring emerging artists.

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