The buoyant art market has seen an increase in the size of artworks. Wall-sized paintings and sculptures towering till the ceiling, in space-crunched Mumbai.
A couple of years back when Anant Joshi was asked why his paintings were small in size, he said that was because his studio was a small room in Dharavi. That may have been said in jest but the space crunch had led to art studios being set up in factory sheds, garages and backyards.
Jitish Kallat works in an actual factory space between Kandivli and Malad off the Western Express Highway. “It is a huge factory premise, where I can make noise and carry on hardcore production activity, that’s what my work requires,” says Kallat. As for the painting aspect of his artworks, he does that at home in Bandra.
Then, there’s Riyas Komu who makes his heavy metal sculptures in a 2000 sq ft garage in Borivli. Working in other cities is the next best option. T V Santhosh and Jehangir Jani prefer going to Baroda whereas Chintan Upadhyay travels to Jaipur to sculpt.
Upadhyay who has studios in Juhu, Andheri and Kandivli says, “In Jaipur I have a workshop space that is almost 7000 sq ft. Where can I get that space in Mumbai?”
His attempt to find space in the city has failed because sculpting means noise. Residents of many areas have refused to allow the artist to rent studio space in their area.
Delhi, Ahmedabad and Baroda have public artist studios, open to any artists. Komu doesn’t agree with the idea of working in a public studio though: “Mumbai has fantastic art institutions for students to work in,” he says. “But after college, one has to work independently.”
Prabhakar Kolte, part of a committee wanting to bring changes at the J J School, wants the studios there to remain open 24 x 7, for the benefit of students.
Recalling his college days, Pradeep Mishra says, “Earlier, students of J J School would apply for a Master’s degree only so that they could use the college studio. Now that art is lucrative, small spaces are affordable to an extent by the younger artists as well.”
Sonavadekar Studio in a narrow lane in Khar and Shirgaonkar Art Studio on the way to Mahakali caves in Andheri are two places to explore for Navjot Altafs and Sudarshan Shettys.
Owner of Sonavadekar Studio, BV Panchal says, “The work of artists does not really interest us, but we do not refuse if they come to us.” The 5400 sq ft area was gifted to sculptor NL Sonavadekar by the government in 1972.
Panchal continues, “Such a gesture by the government towards art can’t even be imagined today because of the property rates.”
Jani seconds him, “I work in fabrication workshops in Byculla and Borivli, but I am planning to shift to Baroda where I can afford to own a studio.”