Mumbai: Sassoon Docks to be transformed into an experimental art exhibition by 30 artists

Nov 10, 2017, 10:44 IST | Snigdha Hasan

For over 30 artists from across India and the world, Sassoon Docks has been their canvas for the last 10 days. Come weekend, the area will transform into an experiential exhibition. In all his 33 years, in Mumbai, visual artist Sameer Kulavoor had never ventured beyond the massive entrance of Sassoon Docks. "It always seemed like an intimidating place, with its large colonial gate and a whiff in the air that wasn't too pleasant," he says about one of the oldest docks in the city, located in the Cuffe Parade neighbourhood and known mainly for its fish market. "What's surprising is that most people from the city haven't been to Sassoon Docks, which hold within them the story of Bombay's origin."

Mythical sea dragon by Curiot and Romina Romanelli. Pic/Akshat Nauriyal
Mythical sea dragon by Curiot and Romina Romanelli. Pic/Akshat Nauriyal

A slice of history
To reintroduce Mumbaikars to this slice of history, the St+art Mumbai 2017 Urban Art Festival launched The Sassoon Dock Art Project, where artists from across India and the world have been creating on-site installations and murals since October-end. This Saturday, the docks will transform into an experiential public art exhibition, with a line-up of interesting events, including curatorial walks, and music and dance performances for every weekend of November.

Artwork by Guido van Helten. Pic/Pranav Gohil
Artwork by Guido van Helten. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

Kulavoor's maiden visit to the docks was two months ago as part of a recce for his artwork for the project. "A whole new place opened up to me. The way the tiny boats bob up and down in the sea, the economy of the place and the people who call it home - it was all very beautiful," he shares.

Sameer Kulavoor
Sameer Kulavoor

Haneef Kureshi, artistic director and co-founder of St+art India Foundation, says they have been in touch with the Mumbai Port Trust for close to a year for the project. "Our philosophy is that art is to be enjoyed by all. It should be present where people don't expect to find it." How has the local community reacted to the initiative? "There have been all kinds of rumours. Some think that a shoot is scheduled to take place here," chuckles Kureshi. "But there is excitement at the dock and that's the aim. It's quite something that in an ever-evolving city like Mumbai, this sliver of land has been almost in the same state since it was reclaimed in the 1870s."

'Need more such initiatives'
While Kulavoor's work is a perfume showroom that he has created on site, with two fragrances from the depths of the Docks, Mexican artist Curiot (Favio Martinez) is working with Romina Romanelli from Uruguay on a mythical museum inspired by the waterbodies around the dock. "We find the aesthetic in Mumbai quite different. Back in Mexico, a lot of public art is graffiti-driven," the duo shares.

Does the city need to do more for its public art? "We definitely need more such initiatives. What's sad is that one fine day, you wake up to a terribly executed, random installation at a buzzing junction," laments Kulavoor. "This city has some great artists. We need to put more thought into what we want it to look like in the long term."

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