GOING DOWN Colaba’s Wodehouse Road in Mumbai, one can be forgiven for missing Art Musings, a gallery nestled in a bylane in one of the city’s more culturally rich areas. Opened by Shanti Chopra and her aunt Kasturi Wadhwani in February 1999, the small space has been lucky to have the trinity of SH Raza, MF Husain and FN Souza as its godfathers, says Chopra’s daughter and the present owner, Sangeeta Raghavan. The gallery, which turned 20 this year, has nurtured a spectrum of artistic practices, working across generations and choices of medium and vocabulary. It has presented the works of legendary Indian modernists such as Raza, Husain, Souza, KG Subramanyan, Ram Kumar and Satish Gujral.
Art Musings is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a series of five exhibitions, all curated by Mumbai-based poet and art critic Ranjit Hoskote. This series is intended to showcase the works of all the artists who have been associated with the gallery over the years. The third of these exhibitions, “Threads into the Labyrinth”, is currently on view. Raghavan says, “The exhibition is our way of thanking the artists who have grown with us over the years, without whom we wouldn’t exist.” The first of the five exhibitions was hosted at the Jehangir Art Gallery in February, followed by the second exhibition at Art Musings in March this year. The last two shows in the anniversary series are “Pilgrims in Space, Time, Identity”, featuring Maya Burman, Nalini Malani, Raghava KK and Shilo Shiv Suleman, slated for September-October; and “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller”, featuring Anjolie Ela Menon, Jayasri Burman, Milburn Cherian and Sakti Burman, to be held in November-December.
The current show features works by Atul Dodiya, Paresh Maity Prabhakar Kolte and Rameshwar Broota. Recalibrating the portrait and the landscape, Maity’s mixed media work Here (2018), depicts lamps and lamp-shades — some illuminating and some not. It takes into account the individual and the group, through a polychrome yet shadowed festivity. Kolte’s works include the acrylic-on-canvas Triptych (2019), while Broota’s Illusions (2018) features a photograph — four men looking down into a camera, holding various multimedia devices such a DSLR cameras with a tripod and mobile phones — on gorilla glass.
Hoskote says the five exhibitions over the year will be able to cover the names the gallery has had close connections with, allowing him to not make the hard decision to leave anyone out. For him, Dodiya’s oil-on-canvas, A Ballad for Yesterday (2018-19), stands out. The painting depicts four different YouTube pages, with one showing a video and the others showing various error messages. “I feel Atul’s piece where he has been able to use digital media and what it has to say to us about communication and visuality, is very intriguing. We speak about the death of the painted frame but he has been able to revitalise it,” he says.
Dodiya, who has been associated with the gallery since its inception, says, “The gallery has a family atmosphere, something that is lacking in today’s growing commercial world. The owners have allowed artists like me to experiment and grow over the years, thereby giving us the freedom to work.”
This, says Raghavan, has been a priority. “It is important that we sustain an artist’s experiments and let them take risks as it is a vital stage in a beginner and mid-career artist’s growth,” she says, “The common thread tying all our artists is that they all work with a fierce sense of independence and honesty, always pushing themselves to give their best.”
Raghavan says, “The fact that we’re here 20 years on is a success in itself. We believe in what we do and if you approach things with honesty, it always works. Besides, we do only five shows a year and try to make sure that each one counts,” she adds.
The exhibition is on display till Aug 28