The New Art District

Two adjacent buildings on a Colaba street are home to a number of art galleries

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Published:July 3, 2013 5:02 am

SANKHAYAN GHOSH

When one thinks of art galleries in Mumbai — a cluster of them — Kala Ghoda comes to mind instantly. With its quaint surroundings and beautiful buildings,it has been the address of some of Mumbai’s oldest galleries and museums. Jehangir Art Gallery,National Gallery for Modern Art,Pundole Art Gallery,Artisans’ and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya have made it the epicentre of the city’s art-related activities. Over the years,as Mumbai’s art scene has grown — giving way to art spaces of different kinds — a number of new galleries have opened in the twin buildings on Arthur Bunder Road of Colaba — not very far from Kala Ghoda.

Chatterjee and Lal,The Guild,Volte Gallery,Sakshi Gallery and Lakeeren are all located at Colaba’s Grants Building and the Kamal Mansion,which are adjacent to each other. The stretch has a line of designer stores and European-style bistros on one side while the other is dotted with Arabian restaurants and shawarma stalls. “We want to turn this street into a hub for art and culture,” says Abu Farhan Azmi,hotelier and Youth President,Samajwadi Party (SP). Both the buildings belong to Azmi’s family.

“For an art gallery,factors such as a nice location,suitable

atmosphere,high ceilings and

uninterrupted open space to display artwork are important. And the Grants Building space has all of the above,” says Geetha Mehra,Director,Sakshi Gallery. This gallery reopened at the Colaba building after moving out of its earlier space near Regal Cinema.

“The advantage of Arthur Bunder Road is that the buildings there were originally built as warehouses. With few walls and high ceilings,they offer a lot of open space. In addition,they have spacious staircases,” says Mortimer Chatterjee,co-founder of Chatterjee & Lal,who zeroed in on the space in 2007 after searching for two years.

The average height of ceilings of both buildings is 30-40 ft,says Azmi,who has provided the spaces at subsidised rents to accommodate the art galleries. The presence of designer stores such as Arjun Khanna Couture,Cottons and Chor Bazar lend the street the impression of a vibrant downtown street.

“While selecting a space for my gallery,I wanted it to be located in an area conducive for showing art. I also checked out if there were like-minded peers already operating from that area. In the Indian context,it is also advisable to think about the prevailing sensibilities of the local community,” says Chatterjee. Agrees Mehra. “It is always good to be in the proximity of similar outlets,like other art galleries and design stores. It makes for a homogeneous cluster,” she adds.

Azmi,whose family owns most of the buildings in this area,has taken steps to create a suitable environment for the galleries. “The party office of SP has moved to Nariman Point so there are no hoardings,banners and jhandas on this street,” says Azmi,who also makes sure there is regular police patrolling for security

of visitors. With Azmi’s entrepreneurial ambitions of turning the street into a melting pot of art and design,it is likely that more art galleries will join the list. Azmi also plans to hold a street festival in collaboration with art galleries,eateries and design stores this year-end.

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