Tucked away in corners of the city’s busiest commercial districts are spaces – some large and some modest – where you can steal a few moments of beauty and silent contemplation.
The places in question are Mumbai’s numerous art galleries, whose white walls are the surface on which artists engage with the public and whose doors are open for anyone to walk in, gaze, critique and appreciate.
For those who have barely experienced art beyond Kala Ghoda’s Jehangir Art Gallery and the pavement art around it, it’s time to go on a city art trail. From spacious art halls to scores of smaller, inconspicuous galleries, from bold murals along main roads to scattered graffiti in little bylanes, Mumbai has a vibrant art culture.
Begin, for instance, at the one-room Pundole Art Gallery at Flora Fountain. The ground floor of a commercial building surrounded by offices and street vendors is an unlikely place to showcase modern painting and sculpture, but this gallery’s takers are just as unlikely.
“We have everyone from executives to and courier boys stepping in during lunch hour to gaze at paintings,” said Khorshed Pundole, whose husband’s family founded the gallery in 1963.
Private art galleries can be intimidating for the average, uninitiated citizen, but Pundole has an inviting aura.
Further down the road, you can stroll into Kala Ghoda and Colaba, known as Mumbai’s art district. Jehangir Art Gallery, the pavement Art Plaza, the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum Gallery are usual crowd pullers, but try the road less taken for your art tour. For instance, on the first floor of Ador House at Rampart Row is Artist’s Centre, a large hall with sleek wooden flooring and an old world charm. In 1950, this was the city’s first art gallery and continues to be a launch platform for Indian artists.
Most visitors at Artist’s Centre are those serious about art. “Art appreciators are a minority at the moment, but there is a growing number of people who have made it a habit to visit art galleries as a means of relieving stress,” said Madhusudhan Kumar, honorary secretary of the gallery.
Among the other galleries dotting Colaba are Artland India, Jamaat, Hacienda Art Gallery and Point of View, but if galleries are not your thing, just hit the streets.
The culture of street art began a few years ago with the Wall Project that was meant to beautify Tulsi Pipe Road from Mahim to Dadar. Today, it is a growing phenomenon in spaces across the city.
Walk along the main road down Lower Parel’s Senapati Bapat Road, meander through Bandra’s narrow Chapel Road, and you will see the spirit of the city captured in bright colours on walls once painted with paan stains. There are quirky visuals, slogans promoting social causes, and at times just splashes of paint, and the hands behind the brushstrokes belong not just to professional graffiti artists but also to ordinary citizens expressing themselves to the city.