One might say that it’s odd for an exhibition catalogue to come out five years after the exhibition took place, and in most cases, one would be right. Not so with Aesthetic Bind, the book which released last month, documents the year-long project comprising five distinct group exhibitions curated by writer and art historian Geeta Kapur.
Conceptualised to celebrate 50 years of the Mumbai gallery Chemould Prescott Road, which was founded by the late Khorshed and Kekoo Gandhy in 1963, and reaffirm the gallery’s place in the history of post-Independence Indian art, the exhibition project ‘Aesthetic Bind’ ran from September 2013 to April 2014. “It (the book) would have come out a long time before this, but the whole project had been a very intense experience for us at the gallery and for Geeta,” says Shireen Gandhy, director of Chemould Prescott Road and daughter of the founders.
That is exactly the sense that comes through with even a casual perusal of the book, Aesthetic Bind. Gandhy says that this, too, was initially conceived as a catalogue, but as the months passed, it evolved into its current form and instead of merely documenting the exhibitions themselves, became a manual for exhibition-making as well as a homage to the intense, frequently fraught but ultimately rewarding work that results from the exchanges between artists and exhibition makers. The book is structured chronologically, so that the reader begins with the the first of the five exhibitions, ‘Subject of Death’ (September 3 to October 3, 2013), and moves through ‘Citizen Artist’ (October 14 to November 15, 2013), ‘Phantomata’ (November 29, 2013 to January 3, 2014), ‘Cabinet Closet Wunderkammer’ (January 20 to March 1, 2014) to the final exhibition ‘Floating World’ (March 19 to April 17). What elevates the book above the level of a mere catalogue, however, is the decision to include the correspondence exchanged by the various parties. Encountering artists through their works is one thing, but to be offered a peek into what goes into the creative process is rare treat.
The revelatory glimpses, however, go beyond the creative process into the actual grind and minute attention to detail required in executing as ambitious a project as ‘Aesthetic Bind’. “In a way, it documents almost every artist associated with the gallery, as well as artists who made what Geeta describes as ‘guest appearances’ in the exhibitions. Beyond that, it also looks at the different modalities of contemporary art practice in India,”