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Delhi’s soho

As this medieval era village gears up for another round of art events over the next few weeks, there’s more — from the city’s first alternative radio station, old ruins to a specialised cheese shop — that you would stumble upon. Here’s a walk-through by Shalini Singh...

delhi Updated: Jun 15, 2013 00:43 IST
Shalini Singh

Situated close to the historic Qutab Minar in south Delhi’s Mehrauli, Lado Sarai (LS) is one of the city’s old urban villages. While Hauz Khas Village (HKV) turned into a restaurant-and-boutique hotspot, and Shahpur Jat (SJ) emerged as a fashion-and-design destination, LS has found its identity as an art hub.

There’s even a special night dedicated to the village during the annual India Art Fair for out-of-towners to see art at one location, says Bhavna Kakar of Latitude 28, founder of one of the oldest galleries in the village. Apart from art, a handful of interesting stores have come up, ensconced in a tightly woven village life, making it an adventure to spot them (see boxes).

As you stroll through, the sight of cows being milked against the backdrop of infringed ruins, quaint salons and local gyms with crudely painted signboards, encroached village wells, a decaying mosque structure alongside a shiny apartment complex, tiny sweet shops in an alley known as ‘Campa Cola Galli’… make for pretty photo-ops. In LS, it’s common to see a posh gallery alongside a dhaba or cowshed, unlike in HKV, where village life is receding into the urban background, says Isha Singh, founder of Art Laureate gallery.

However, people aren’t so tolerant, observes village resident and curator Himanshu Verma. “The sense of masculinity is still 10th century in some pockets”.

But between the laments of Narendra of Neeraj Art Gallery calling LS a “failed market with no footfalls” and art aficionados queuing up during the ‘art nites’ — this village offers a steaming pot of an urban-rural mix.

Capital’s art address

After the 2008 sealing drive when galleries trickled in to Lado Sarai for its cheaper rentals, it started to emerge as the capital’s art destination. It’s even touted as Delhi’s answer to SoHo (a popular neighbourhood in New York known for art galleries and gentrification).

In 2011, galleries such as Latitude 28, Abadi Art Space, Art Positive, Art Motif, Exhibit 320, Studio Art, Wonderwall came together to host the first ‘Art Nite at Lado Sarai’. Now, a regular feature on the city’s culture calendar, this art-wine-cheese event takes place every three months and brings together buyers, artists, collectors and enthusiasts.

Watch out for the Affordable Art Weekend tentatively scheduled for the first week of July and a bigger ‘Art Nite’ in August.