When your road gets the art attack

Contemporary art has blossomed in our country, spilling out of galleries and onto our streets, catching most unaware. Drive around the city and check out Mumbai’s best public art works on display.
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Updated on Jan 21, 2011 03:23 PM IST
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None | ByArzan Khambatta

Firstly, any sort or form of art, which can be viewed by all and sundry, gets a thumbs up in my book. What I mean is that all art should not be inside galleries meant for just a handful of viewers. Instead, it should be out in the streets where it can be viewed by our masses. Living in Mumbai, we are not subjected to as much public art as in Europe or the US. And strangely, just for some trivia, the maximum amount of public art I have ever seen was in Mexico City.

Public art not only enhances and enlivens the environment it is in, it also enriches the viewer. Just like reading imparts more knowledge, viewing art hones our aesthetic senses, even if you are totally unaware of it. These five public works are very prominent in Mumbai, and I am extremely glad that two of them are mine.

I’ll start with a sculpture at Worli Sea Face. It is R K Laxman’s ‘Common Man’. I think it's special because it's lifesize and actually merges with the public. It’s not hoisted on a special pedestal, so it literally becomes one of the several common men and women walking on the promenade.

The second one I would name is the sculpture titled Stone Age To Space by Piloo Pochkhanawala. This one stands tall at the top of the Nehru Centre lawn, Worli. It is a brilliant combination of rough sandstone and cast aluminium. It actually reminds you of where man began and where he has reached, literally in space.

The third one was also by Piloo Pochkhanawala and it stood at Haji Ali. With the increase in traffic and the lack of maintenance, the sculpture was scrapped. It was really one of the most powerful pieces of art in the city. It was commissioned by the BEST and was titled Spark. A miniature replica of the same can be seen at one of the well landscaped gardens opposite Regal Theatre.

Now coming to one of my own, the Dolphins near the Podar Hospital junction in Worli. I like these because of their playfulness, and the motion that they have been captured in. They actually look as if they are jumping out of the water. The reflective steel also helps to enhance the effect.

The Rhino outside the Air India building happened in 1995. CEAT Tyres commissioned it. It is a very strong sculpture, and aptly portrays the company that has sponsored it. Whilst viewing it from any angle, one can feel the force of the same, all coming together at the pinnacle, which is the tip of the horn. It has been purposely balanced only on the hind legs to give it the visual thrust required.

I feel that contemporary art has really blossomed in our country and especially in our city. It is a requirement for this art to come out on the streets and engage the public in a visual feast.

The writer is an architect by profession and has designed public sculptures in Mumbai.

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