Drop by an exhibition that showcases early chromolithographs and pre-Independence print ads

Mar 06, 2018, 12:02 IST | Dhara Vora Sabhnani

Since its opening in 2012, an annual feature at ARTISANS' has been the Ephemera exhibition that showcases some of the best chromolithographs, print ads and offset prints from Indian art history

Drop by an exhibition that showcases early chromolithographs and pre-Independence print ads
Drop by an exhibition that showcases early chromolithographs and pre-Independence print ads

Since its opening in 2012, an annual feature at ARTISANS' has been the Ephemera exhibition that showcases some of the best chromolithographs, print ads and offset prints from Indian art history. Founder Radhi Parekh tells us that the interest stems from her having studied graphic design and visual communication from a largely Western or European point of view, like most others who studied design in India. "Until recently, not only us [design professionals] but people in general frowned upon kitsch and a certain garishness that is seen in our popular culture and visual communication. But it's amazing how it has an emotional connect. It also has value from a cultural anthropology and art perspective," says Parekh.

The pieces that have been exhibited so far include works of Raja Ravi Varma and eminent artists after him, up to the '60s. "The works from the colonial period, which had a lot of Indian imagery, were used by global companies such as Hindustan Lever and Woodward's Gripe Water to reach the local populace. But at the same time, there were local companies that used European styles. It happens even today when we use white models or a Western look in our advertisements to create aspiration," points out Parekh.

She elaborates that many ads are also calendars with images of Hindu deities that were exchanged between merchants during Diwali or New Year. These were often used as puja objects with the calendar and brand cut out, and just the image framed. "It's also the story of enterprising merchants, who were mainly Marwaris, but also Gujaratis, Sindhi and Chettinad merchants who travelled to Calcutta, Karachi, Bombay, Madras and Lahore, the hubs of this trade. With merchants importing western brands, these ads became the interface between the colonial corporation and the locals," Parekh sums up.

Till: March 8, 11 am to 7 pm
At: VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda.

Wah Taj!

Wah Taj!
The history of Bombay is incomplete without a mention of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel that stands with pride in Colaba, facing the iconic Gateway of India. A most interesting cluster of artefacts from the hotel take the viewer back to the ways of the well-heeled in the early 1900s. On display are delicate cobalt blue crockery from the hotel's earliest collection, and a card dated December 31, 1925, which features a special New Year's Eve menu. If today's menu cards have you reach for Google translate, this one was all French with no subtitles!

Community speak

Community speak
Gorgeous traditional attires of the Pathare Prabhu community, one of the original settlers in Mumbai, form the highlight of the next section. A black saree hung over a four-poster bed, a silver-black blouse (bespoke enough to give the city's tailors a run for their money), the Pathare Prabhu headgear for men along with leather footwear are easily over a 100 years old. To complete the experience is a recipe book from the community, which was first published in 1910 and features recipes categorised according to the core ingredient used.

Vintage technology

Vintage technology
A kerosene fan that looks like an aesthetic hybrid of a table and pedestal fan is one of the first artefacts to greet you at the exhibition. In pre-electricity days, it provided much-needed respite from the city's sultry weather. Among other objects in this cluster is an apothecary table with bottles still half-filled with medicines; a weighing balance attached with a drawer to store cleavers; and measuring vessels in units such as tola, seer and pint.

Sepia-tinted cinema

Sepia-tinted cinema
A fan of Shammi Kapoor, Jayakar owns memorabilia from his films that he even gifted the actor. Songbooks featuring lyrics of songs from a movie were an important promotion material, and some of those feature in the section. Lobby cards of movies that would line the walls of a cinema hall are also displayed. A vintage radio and gramophone make this section a retro Bollywood lover's delight.

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