The year 2009 was a cruel one for Indian art. Inflated prices came crashing down and veteran galleries shut up shop as the recession finally bit. In Mumbai, however, two new galleries have responded by emphasizing informality and accessibility qualities calibrated to the current climate and a refreshing change in the sometimes stuffy Indian art scene.
Gallery BMB, gallerybmb.com, partly owned by Indian artist Bose Krishnamachari, is set on a leafy street in the busy Fort area. It boasts an airy café and a store retailing hard-to-find art books because, spokeswoman Kanchi Mehta says, "We wanted to start a cultural institution where people come to hang out, eat and talk, not just look at the art and leave." Items on display aren't limited to fine art. The current show, "Her Work Is Never Done," runs until March 20 (and again from March 26 to April 17) and features hats from milliner Shilpa Chavan, home products from graphic designer Divya Thakur and animated films by award-winning director Gitanjali Rao. "People still think of Indian art in terms of [venerable painter] M.F. Husain. We want to educate them about other types of art," adds Mehta.
The net is cast similarly wide at Volte, volte.in, in the tony Colaba district, where the exhibits range from video art to LED installations. There are occasional poetry readings and talks by artists too. "People are often intimidated by art in old-fashioned galleries," says owner Tushar Jiwarajka. "We wanted a friendly space with nontraditional art." Showing from Feb. 27 to March 25 is work from the young British-Indian video and performance artist Kiran Kaur Brar. "Gallery culture will take a while to catch on, but we are in this for the long run," says Jiwarajka. Let's hope another market crash doesn't curtail their plans.