Gallerist Arshiya Lokhandwala was one of the first to open an art gallery in the suburbs, way back in 1995. Then she decided to go abroad to pursue a PhD in art history, and shut the gallery in 2003.
When she returned six years later, she decided to reopen Lakeeren — but in Colaba. “I chose Colaba because Kala Ghoda and the areas around Jehangir Art Gallery are the art hub of the city,” says Lokhandwala.
On Friday, Lakeeren will be one of nine galleries from the art district heading to the suburbs — to woo an all-new breed of collector and appreciator. “The suburbs have a very special quality. The people are young, enthusiastic and open to new ideas. They are also willing to learn, and are becoming increasingly interested in art,” says Lokhandwala. “I am excited about reaching out to collectors old and new, through Mumbai Gallery Weekend.”
Mumbai Gallery Weekend is a joint initiative of nine leading galleries from Colaba, Kala Ghoda and Fort — Chemould Prescott Road, Sakshi, Gallery Maskara, Chatterjee & Lal, Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Project 88, The Guild, Volte and Lakeeren.
Together, they will showcase 50 contemporary art works by 40 leading artists, including Jitish Kallat, Shine Shivan, Neha Choksi and T Venkanna.
The three-day exhibition is being held in a specially designed, 5,500-sq-ft space at Taj Land’s End, Bandra, and is likely to become an annual feature.
Its mission is very specific: To reach out to educated, well-travelled suburbanites aged 25 to 45, particularly in the wealthy areas of Bandra, Khar, Juhu and Andheri.
So what prompted the elitist south Mumbai giants of the art world to head out to the western suburbs?
Curators, artists and gallerists say two factors are responsible: A saturation of the island city art market, and a growing realisation that a large chunk of the city’s aspirational buyers and large disposable incomes have long since moved north of Mahim.
Many of the wealthy, cultured art collectors of Peddar Road, Napean Sea Road and Colaba that largely sustained the Mumbai art market, most of them over 50, are seldom interested in the new-age contemporary, and experimental art on offer today, says curator Kanchi Mehta.
Hence the need to attract new, young collectors. “We believe that the suburban art buyer will play a very important role in Mumbai’s contemporary art market,” says Abhay Maskara, director of Gallery Maskara.
Adds Geeta Mehra, owner of Sakshi art gallery: “The Bandra-Andheri stretch has become a centre of attraction for the young and the happening.”
MORE GALLERIES TOO
In keeping with this northward trend, three new art spaces have opened up in Bandra and Juhu over the past six months — Art Buy Appointment (ABA), Diesel+Art, and False Ceiling.
ABA in Juhu, set up by three entrepreneurs, has hosted three shows so far and plans to open two more spaces, in Bandra and Malad, over the next six months. Also in Juhu is Diesel+Art, which has hosted four art shows over the past six months.
Its last show, ‘Did Anyone Notice…?’, curated by Kanchi Mehta, displayed contemporary installations, video films and photographs by 11 artists, including Ali Akbar Mehta, Mukul Deora and Vivek Vilasini.
About 150 people attended the opening in February, including many first-timers, says Mehta.
Among those first-timers was actor and dancer Bhavna Pani, 28, a Juhu resident who says art exhibitions have always intimidated her.
Intrigued by the title of the show, however, and lured by the fact that the gallery was so close to her home, she decided to drop in.
“I always thought I could never understand or relate to any kind of art,” she says. “But I was wrong. I interacted with the contemporary artists at the show, identified with their works and had an enriching experience.”
Encouraged, Pani now plans to regularly visit the new galleries in the area. “I would still not want to travel all the way to south Mumbai,” she says. “But closer home, I would definitely want to attend more exhibitions.”
Meanwhile, at False Ceiling in Pali Hill, Bandra, the timings have been tailored to suit the office-going yuppie.
While most galleries shut by 7 pm on weekdays and are closed on Sundays, this six-month-old gallery stays opens from 5 pm to 10 pm on weekdays and 11 am to 10 pm on weekends. “We are targeting a younger audience,” says gallery owner and graphic designer Karthikeyan Ramachandran. “Even our art is young, experimental and mad.”