Worli's Westmore to host art exhibition for the first time

Updated: Mar 18, 2018, 10:33 IST | Benita Fernando | Mumbai

Westmore, the Worli residence associated with art collectors Jehangir Nicholson and Sangita Sinh Kathiwada, opens its doors to an art exhibition for the first time

Art collector and entrepreneur Sangita Sinh Kathiwada in the foyer of Westmore, which will host an exhibition this month. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Art collector and entrepreneur Sangita Sinh Kathiwada in the foyer of Westmore, which will host an exhibition this month. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Reclining with marked poise on a plush, low settee in her living room, Sangita Sinh Kathiwada now occupies the space once owned by the late Jehangir Nicholson. It was more than a decade ago that Kathiwada frequented Westmore, then Nicholson's house in Worli, as much as her elderly friend dropped by Melange, the multi-designer boutique she opened in 1993.

Displaced Lullabies (2016-2017) by Aslam Md
Displaced Lullabies (2016-2017) by Aslam Md

On one such visit at Westmore, over tea and cakes that the gentlemanly Nicholson had ordered from Willingdon Club, Kathiwada was posed with an odd request, which could have well been a polite order. "He asked me to buy the house. I hesitated initially, as the house needed a lot of repair. However, Jhangu Bhai [as Nicholson was fondly called] was keen that his house should go to someone who loved art as much as he did, rather than a builder or a corporate who would be sure to tear down the structure," says Kathiwada.

Concrete shelter (2017) by Shiva Gor
Concrete shelter (2017) by Shiva Gor

After much consideration, Kathiwada bought Westmore and adopted Nicholson's wish. She repaired and restored the four-storeyed structure, which gently entices with its Art Deco balconies, windows and spiralling stairs. It upholds the memory of Nicholson, who owned a fine and substantial collection of Indian art, especially the Modernists; his trust co-owns Westmore even today.

Kathiwada's connoisseurship is worth noticing, too. This member of Madhya Pradesh's Kathiwada Royal Family has an ever-growing collection, with her preference for the earthy tones of Jagdish Swaminathan and Rameshwar Broota dominating it. As we scan the interiors of Westmore today, it is luxurious, as would be fitting a princess, but its resplendence is cut through by the near austerity of the paintings and drawings that grace its walls.

Sharing is important
From one art collector to another, Westmore has become a stronghold for discerning taste and will host its first ever art exhibition this month. Worli-based gallerist, Priyasri Patodia, who is incidentally Kathiwada's niece, is set to showcase an off-site exhibition of sculptures and installations by ten young artists here. The exhibition, Spaces and Traces, is curated by Pronoy Chakraborty, and uses both Nicholson and Kathiwada's collections and Westmore's architectural facets as pivotal points. The exhibition follows close on the heels of Archival Dialogues, also curated by Chakraborty and shown by Priyasri Art Gallery, in which young Baroda-based artists responded to fashion designer James Ferreira's antiquated bungalow at Khotachiwadi.

"I like the idea of art being viewed outside a white cube space. Surrounded by an architectural space or nature, there is the possibility of engaging with it differently," says Kathiwada. "For me, it was an organic decision when Priyasri approached me with the idea to show the exhibition here. It is very concrete for her; she knows which works are going to be installed where," says Kathiwada, beckoning our attention to the foyer beyond the patio windows. Here, mixed with the verdant surroundings and cascading vines, the foyer will turn into a pop-up sculpture garden during Spaces and Traces. "It is a refined and intelligent collector's responsibility to allow these [supporting exhibitions] to happen in the country, and make it a vibrant art scene," she adds, as we stroll around the foyer. Imagine, she says, visitors being able to drop by Westmore, a residential space, without appointment, and enjoy artworks here.

"Sharing - that's an important word," she says. In the same spirit, Kathiwada will host an exhibition themed around Mumbai's rich Art Deco heritage later this year. The exhibition will draw from her fascination for Art Deco, with its design principles having found their way into her life beyond just Westmore. She often chooses to accessorise with jewellery and handbags that are Art Deco-inspired, as also stock products with similar aesthetics at Melange. She calls Art Deco her "most favourite design movement". "It's timeless," she says.

In fact, Spaces and Traces is intended as a prequel to that larger exhibition, with more to follow. These prequels will venture further into the Westmore interiors. There are plans in place, Kathiwada tells us, to expand public access to the ground floor of Westmore, while their residential quarters will shift upstairs. As our stroll comes to an end, we notice three existing sculptures in the foyer, two of which are by the noted sculptor, Pilloo Pochkhanawala. Another one, a more classical figurative piece, peeks out from behind some boughs. "That one is Jehangir's. I have retained it here in memory of him," says Kathiwada.

What: Spaces and Traces: A Prequel to Embracing Modernity
Where: Westmore, Pochkhanwala Road, Worli
When: March 24 to April 3, 10 am – 2 pm (closed on Sunday)
Call: 9323582303

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