Tao celebrates 20 years this weekend; Anju Dodiya opens new show
For most the last 20 years, Mumbai folks could get a look at great art just by driving past a Worli gallery’s street-facing window. It gave many the courage to walk into an exhibition and see works by MF Husain, SH Raza, Akbar Padamsee and contemporary artists for the first time. It also gave many a lifelong interest in art.
As Tao, the gallery in question, celebrates its 20th anniversary, it exhibits the best and brightest of those showcases. Tapestry of Time, which opens on Friday, February 28, features works by 66 artists and covers several eras and styles.
“Tao was started with a vision to make art accessible and not only for a certain class or category of people,” says Kalpana Shah, 61, the gallery’s founder. “I am self-taught, and I’ve relied largely on my instinct even when buying art. When I would have an idea, the masters would happily go along, and some lovely shows have come out of it.”
She recalls Maun, a 2004 solo exhibition by Raza, which sprung from a concept of her making. “I told him I wanted the works to be silent and I wanted the people to also come and look at it in silence,” says Shah. The artist loved it, creating works in a muted palette of beige and off white, uncharacteristic for Raza, who’s known for vivid reds, yellows and greens. About two years later, at a café in Paris, Shah ran another idea by him.
It is that intuition, Kalpana says, that has helped Tao thrive where others have floundered. Shah’s daughter Sanjana, 24, has been working with her for two years and will probably take over operations one day. “I can’t wait for the day when all I do for a show is attend it,” says Shah.
Among the works is Paper Planes, a 2017 watercolour and charcoal work by Anju Dodiya. The artist opens a solo show the following day at the Chemould Prescott Road gallery at Fort. The show, Breathing on Mirrors, marks Dodiya’s return to the gallery after eight years.
“I used the mirror to draw from in my early works in the 1990s and in 2007 I did an installation with mirror shards and paintings,” says Dodiya, who replaces the actual reflective glass with metaphorical ideas of self-reflection in this exhibition. “My early work was about conversations with the fictional self. Now the stories are more intense, as in private, emotional discourse, seen up close, so that the image of yourself gets blurry.”
One of the works Arachne’s Walk depicts the Greek mythological character Arachne, an expert weaver who was turned into a spider and cursed to weave forever by an envious goddess Athena. “I found this story intriguing, that a person gets to do what they love, and drown in an endless well of creativity,” says Dodiya, 56. “What a wonderful curse!”