From afar it seems to be caught in a time warp: the Jehangir Art Gallery I visited as undergraduate is like it was ages ago. But inside the wear and tear is showing if you look hard enough. Fortunately, there are more children weaving in and out of the halls which is heartening.
During the time we were growing, the Jehangir Art Gallery was where young artists aspired to someday have their work on display. I tell my kids a bit about the history: that it was founded by Sir Cowasji Jehangir at the urging of KK Hebbar and Homi Bhabha and built in 1952.
Today, the gallery looks busy. Even before we enter I see parents with children leaving the premise. There are four exhibition halls inside the gallery. We climb up to explore the one on top, first. In 1952, when JAG was inaugurated, the space was meant to symbolise the renaissance of Indian art. I realise now, how the simple layout of the hall actually gives no scope to look at anything except the works on display. And somehow, it makes sense.
After the pristine NGMA, the Jehangir Art Gallery is warmer. And the exhibition on the top instantly renders us speechless. Titled Mumbai in Monsoons, there is nothing of the bleak Mumbai you expect during the monsoons. What is there instead is a splash of colours. The lights of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus reflected on a wet road, the shimmer of the sea during a cloud burst, a dance of a procession leading a Ganpati in the rains… we’ve forgotten how colourful Mumbai is; can be. And someone has seen it and captured it.
Every painting has a thread, a connect: a flutter of leaves. “These look like maple leaves,” one kid observes. It does. But the thing about Jehangir Art Gallery is that you can walk up to the artist and chat with him/her. And, my kids talk to the artist. The artist tells them that the leaf he has rendered on each of his frames is one that appears only in the monsoons in Mumbai. Wow.
The Jehangir Art Gallery is a kid-friendly space to understand art and interact with the artist as well
We step down to view the remaining exhibitions. A group of painters have come together in Gallery no 1 for a collective exhibition. The next gallery has installations. We move to the biggest exhibition, that of artist Douglas John who has captured his hometown, Solapur, during a temple festival. Radiant, resplendent paintings start from the ceiling and touch the floor. There is a shimmer of gold in each work. Students and children wander and talk to him. Many stand to simply stare and soak in the work.
Such magnificence can only inspire. The kids get home and paint.
Where: 161, Kala Ghoda.
How to get: there Via Central Railway: board any train for CST. Via Western Railway, hop on to any Churchgate-bound train. Taxis from either terminus will reach you to the venue.
Timings: Daily, 11 am - 7 pm
Food: Inside the gallery, its iconic cafe, Samovar serves an assortment of food, from chaats to parathas, seasonal pakodas and tea.
Water: Water is available at Samovar but carry if possible.
Restroom: Yes. Pay Rs 2 for use.
What’s good: From a kid’s viewpoint, the gallery makes art accessible because the artist is present to talk to. The exhibits are on rotation basis so there is always something new to see.
What’s not good: Nothing.