Mumbai: Dadar-Lower Parel-Worli set to position itself as a young art district

May 13, 2018, 07:57 IST | Benita Fernando

Starting June 29, art lovers can say hello to the Mumbai Midtown Arts Collective (MMAC). An initiative by Anupa Mehta and Rashmi Dhanwani, the MMAC will bring together seven spaces in Worli, Dadar, Byculla and Lower Parel to build upon a format

Gallery Art & Soul
Gallery Art & Soul

How often have we heard friends say, "Let's grab a drink?" and the next thing you know, you are headed to Lower Parel? That same enthusiasm, purposefulness, and the promise of an evening well-spent are what art spaces in and around that part of the city are gearing up for this year.

Priyasri Art Gallery
Priyasri Art Gallery

Starting June 29, art lovers can say hello to the Mumbai Midtown Arts Collective (MMAC). An initiative by Anupa Mehta and Rashmi Dhanwani, the MMAC will bring together seven spaces in Worli, Dadar, Byculla and Lower Parel to build upon a format that their counterparts in South Mumbai have cracked over the past few years.

Tao Art Gallery
Tao Art Gallery

In this city, artists and visitors mark their calendars for Art Night Thursdays, the second Thursday of every month, when galleries have extended hours instead of their usual closing time of around 6 pm. Similarly, the MMAC will host Art Night Fridays, to be held on the third Friday of the month once every quarter. There will also be Art Sundays, when galleries will remain open, and workshops and sessions will be held in public spaces.

Volte Art Projects
Volte Art Projects

Art Night Thursdays was conceptualised in 2011, along with Mumbai Gallery Weekend, by a group of about eight galleries in South Mumbai. It continues to visibly draw more visitors than what they would have on most other days. To boil it down to basics, it is a mix of two factors — geography and programming.

Piramal Museum of Art + their Byculla gallery
Piramal Museum of Art + their Byculla gallery

For most Mumbaikars, a weekday visit to South Mumbai, particularly Colaba and Kala Ghoda, where a number of galleries are located, usually means wrapping up early from work, and making at least a 45-minute trip from the suburbs. Art Night Thursdays mean that visitors from Jogeshwari or Mulund can spend more time with exhibitions, walkthroughs and talks.

Anupa Mehta Arts & Advisory
Anupa Mehta Arts & Advisory

"There is a reason why we are planning for Fridays and not Thursdays. That's the day most professionals working in this part of town will step out and unwind," says Dhanwani, founder of The Art X Company, an arts management consultancy, which will drive MMAC.

Saffronart
Saffronart

There's enough for everyone
Mehta and Dhanwani tell us that the idea to form a central Mumbai collective is not new, and has been on their minds for some time now. And, then, last year, some of the midtown art spaces got a massive push for the first time during Mumbai Gallery Weekend, an outreach programme with a series of art events. Mehta, an arts consultant, who runs Anupa Mehta Arts & Advisory from the studio that earlier used to be a gallery, The Loft, at Lower Parel, could see the difference.

Anupa Mehta and Rashmi Dhanwani
Anupa Mehta and Rashmi Dhanwani

"We had a tea party here, and I expected the regular audience to turn up. Instead, a different crowd dropped by — people who had heard that there was something going on," she says. Lower Parel and Mahalaxmi now have a number of creative clusters, such as indie design studios, today. These areas also house and employ well-travelled aesthetes with disposable incomes.

Dhanwani cites a report by KPMG in India and FICCI (February 2018), titled Visual arts industry in India: Painting the future, which stated that 'a new segment of art buyers in India consists of entrepreneurs, company executives and professionals... An increasing number of young art enthusiasts in their late 20s to early 40s are attending shows at art galleries and festivals, to both participate in workshops as well as buy original artwork.

Pics/Ashish Raje; Map/Deshna Mehta; Imaging/Ravi Jadhav
Pics/Ashish Raje; Map/Deshna Mehta; Imaging/Ravi Jadhav

"Lower Parel has a sizeable presence of such professionals, who are open to different experiences such as catching a comedy or music gig or a new exhibition. Although there is the perceived notion that art is an elite preoccupation, these barriers can be lowered to open arts spaces even further," she says.

Focus on accessibility
In recent years, Lower Parel and its surrounding pincodes have turned into the great corporate heart of the city, drawing thousands through railway networks and SUVs for work and leisure. Mehta says that history always speaks through, as the place that was once devoted to mills, and mill workers. It is reason why accessibility is a key focus of the MMAC — how do you draw the waiting staff from the nearby pub as much as corporate consultants? "We forget that art is the great equaliser, and Lower Parel is a constant reminder that different classes co-exist here," says Dhanwani.

The MMAC, interestingly, is not a homogenous clutch of galleries, but has, under its umbrella, a museum, an arts advisory, an auction house, and galleries that have been around for more than a decade, and those that are fairly new. More are likely to join hands in the near future (check MMAC's Facebook page for more info).

The MMAC, thus, strategically, means more visibility to these spaces, and the recognition of the presence and growth of another art district, co-existing with the one in Colaba. "We are complementing our friends in South Mumbai. We hope that many more area-specific art circles may occur, and cater to local communities," says Mehta. She adds that with galleries showcasing a range of artistic practices, there is a growing audience for all.

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