Colaba’s new 2,200sqft gallery targets the young buyer. By introducing them to the lesser-known masters.
In a quiet, leafy lane close to the Taj Mahal Hotel is Churchill Chambers, an imposing 92-year-old heritage structure. A climb up its stairs now leads to Akara Art Gallery, a space where artwork by the likes of Amrita Sher-Gil, Atul Dodiya, Manjit Bawa and other greats are spread across three rooms. The gallery is the brainchild of art dealer Puneet Shah, who has been operating Akara Art, a consultancy in Colaba (‘Akara’ means shape in Sanskrit) since 2009.
Its first exhibition, titled Mysteries of the Organism, is curated by art writer Girish Shahane, and features works that have been sourced from private collectors and from Akara’s inventory. The 20 artworks on display have been collected over the span of a month and relate to the human body and mind. They include an untitled self-portrait by Amrita Sher-Gil from the 1930s, a collection of paintings that focus on the human head by the likes of Tyeb Mehta and Atul Dodiya, a 1989 mixed media work by MF Husain, and a surreal rhinestone and graphite artwork by Raqib Shaw.
“The show is about identity and how it is revealed in studies, portraits, and relationships between humans and the natural world. Because of the range of works, everybody will find something to like,” says Shahane.
Shah (31), who started out as an analyst at JP Morgan, also worked at the now-defunct Bodhi Art Gallery before starting his venture. “This space was a natural progression for me since I have been consulting on art. Akara will feature curated shows and focus on quality and rare work, including of those artists who haven’t got their due,” he says. Shah mentions BC Sanyal, who taught contemporary artist Manjit Bawa but whose works don’t command a substantial price. Similarly, HA Gade is a progressive artist whose works fail to fetch the same value as works by Tyeb Mehta and MF Husain, though his work is equally good, observes Shah.
“There aren’t many galleries that deal with the secondary market (original artwork being resold), especially for modern and contemporary art. That makes us unique. We are also clear that all our shows will have an Indian or South Asian connect,” he explains.
As for the location, Shah says he was set on Colaba from the beginning. “I zeroed in on Colaba because the major galleries are here and lots of art buyers live in the vicinity. The space also has lots of natural light, and allows us to compartmentalise exhibitions and experiment with mediums,” he says.
Shah is targeting art enthusiasts in the age group of 30 to 40 who, he believes, have the right budget and would be keen on buying modern and contemporary art. His advice for newbie buyers is to pick what they like: “Buy only if you have disposable income. Make sure you like what you buy as art as investment may not always pay off and you have to live with it. Also, check the provenance of what you have bought — the exhibition history, details published about it, among other things.”
While the gallery will only host quarterly exhibitions — their next shows will be in July and December and will feature works by Anish Kapoor and Nasreen Mohamedi — the space might also double up as a venue for talks related to art.
Art for thought
Mysteries of the Organism is on till April 15, 11.30am to 6.30pm
Where: First floor, Churchill Chambers, 32 Mereweather Road, Colaba
Call: 2202 5550