Mumbai's keepers of art

Jan 12, 2013, 00:51 IST | Soma Das

This January, two Mumbai art galleries, Jamaat and Tao, will celebrate their 14th and 13th anniversaries, respectively. Soma Das does a rewind tour with their founder owners

When Jamaat (which means gathering) opened on January 8, 1999, it was envisaged as a spot where people could exchange thoughts and ideas as well as sit, relax and view art. The gallery started as a tribute to Pravina Mecklai’s dad, Jhamat, who exposed her to the arts when she was six. Recalls Mecklai, owner of Jamaat, “We started with a show of paintings by K Laxma Goud. After that, we were on a roll and proud of our shows with the Shantiniketan-based sculptor, Sarbari Roy Chowdhury and Kolkata-based Sunil Das. We showed Chennai-based AV Ilango in 2000; the show was so successful that he got the confidence to participate in the European Art Academy show and won the first prize. The artists we show are now family — we celebrate their successes and comfort during their tragedies.”

Jamaat turns 14 this January

Since 2009, Jamaat has focused on showing works by masters of traditional Indian art forms. “This has given these master artists the exposure, experience and confidence to show in fine art galleries all over the country and their works are now in global museums in Japan, London, Paris and Los Angeles,” she adds. Over the years, Jamaat has featured artists from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Japan, New York, France and Italy. They have also hosted fashion shows, music performances, plays, book readings and talks. They also conduct workshops for children from local schools and NGOs, and talks by artists.

The 14-year-old gallery has hosted renowned artists. Mecklai recalls: “MF Husain would come by for tea, from his studio round the corner, whenever he was in the mood. I adored Jehangir Sabavala as an artist and as a gentleman. We joke around with Krishen Khanna and share biryani with Laxman Shreshta.”  The gallery has also had its share of hurdles but managed to make a comeback. “On February 14, 2004, the gallery building fell. Even though all the floors above us were demolished when we were allowed to enter Jamaat after two days, we found that there was not a crack on the wall. We moved out for two years until the building was safe. Luckily, we had an empty apartment on the 7th floor in a building in Colaba, where we started Jamaat in the sky,”  reminisces Mecklai.

Their anniversary show that year was at the old site with a site-specific installation by Sudarshan Shetty, titled Party is Elsewhere. It featured a big table with 365 wine glasses and a hammer came down on the table and shook the glasses but did not break them. “This was to indicate that even though we were shaken, we were not broken and had just moved the celebration. After two years, we moved back to our original place and had a stunning Samir Mondal show,” says Mecklai. For their 14th anniversary, they will showcase artworks by Prabhakar Kolte. “I admire him as a teacher, writer, friend and mentor. This show includes his works from 2001 to 2008, after which he stopped painting and started writing, travelling and lecturing. Most were unseen before this, and are watercolours on paper in blacks and whites. A few include collages using mixed media. This show came about after long discussions and studio visits,” explains Mecklai. In the near future, the gallery plans to introduce talks and workshops.

Till February 8
At Jamaat, National House, Tulloch Road, Colaba.
Call 22822145
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Tao Art Gallery
Started on January 28, 2000, Worli’s Tao Art Gallery includes two exhibition spaces (Window Gallery and Atrium Gallery) and is owned by self-taught artist, curator and collector Kalpana Shah. Over 13 years, it has been a site for art camps, book launches, photo exhibitions and art performances. In 2001, it’s launch show featured a historical show that paid tribute to key points in the careers of Akbar Padamsee, MF Husain and SH Raza among others. In 2003, they hosted Shantipath, an exhibition dedicated to world peace featuring artists such as Sakti Burman, Arpana Caur and Satish Gujral.

The anniversary show with art by Prabhakar Kolte

The gallery has also curated an all-women art camp in Cambodia in 2005 and a group show at the Tate and Chelsea College of Arts, London in the same year. In 2008, the gallery first participated in the Indian Art Summit at Delhi. “Most expensive paintings of contemporary Indian masters including SH Raza, MF Husain and Tyeb Mehta have been displayed at the Tao Art Gallery.

A few innovative events in the pipeline are periodic art-related film screenings and discussion sessions on art appreciation,” says Shah. Their anniversary show, Equilibrium, is about the creative and destructive side to nature’s law. These two processes working in harmony with one another maintain life and spin the wheel of evolution. By balancing the opposing forces, nature promotes evolution.

From February 7 till Friday 8
At Tao Art Gallery, Dr AB Road, Worli.
Call 24918585
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