Thursday, March 1, 2012

Nayantara Kilachand on Bombay's best galleries

Nayantara Kilachand is the founder of Mumbai Boss, which is a sort of Time Out on the Web, and has a number of ex-Time Out people on its payroll. I browse the site now and again, mainly for articles by those ex-Time Out people. Nayantara herself writes very well about art.
Which is why I was surprised to read this article by her in the Guardian, covering Bombay's top 10 galleries. One of the ten, Matthieu Foss, is apparently about to close, so maybe Nayanatara's piece is dated already. A number of other lines in the article struck me as odd.

About Chemould Prescott Road, she writes: One of the oldest and most prestigious galleries in Mumbai, Chemould was a hothouse for a group of modernist artists who later come to be known as the Progressives (its most famous exponent, MF Husain, passed away in London last year). Today, relocated to a vast loft-like space, it alternates between showing contemporary bigwigs (Shilpa Gupta, Atul Dodiya, Nalini Malani) and emerging artists (Dhruvi Acharya, Shezad Dawood) and remains an inspiration to the art world's new generation of stars.

Chemould was founded long after the Progressives had disbanded, so it could never have been a 'hothouse' for the group's members. If there were such hothouses in the 40s and 50s, they were the Artists' Centre in Kala Ghoda and the Bhulabhai Desai Institute.
The Progessives called themselves the Progressive Artists' Group, so I don't see how they 'later came to be known as the Progressives'.
I don't consider Dhruvi Acharya and Shez Dawood emerging artists, but I suppose there's a degree of interpretation involved there.

About Project 88: This cavernous space was once a warren of office cubicles that housed employees of an elevator company. Luckily, the six-year-old gallery, owned by Sree Goswami, is now a minimalist space with exposed beams and iron pillars and bears little evidence of its industrial past. In addition to the coterie of big names – such as Vogue India fashion photographer Bharat Sikka, auction house favourite Bharti Kher and graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee – Goswami also takes a chance on the offbeat and experimental, like the intellectual Raqs Media Collective...

Little evidence of its industrial past... except those exposed metal beams and pillars. Beams and pillars which, in my opinion, not only give the space an industrial feel but render it rather non-minimalist.
It's debatable whether a show of Raqs Media Collective is 'taking a chance on the offbeat and experimental', since the trio has shown across the globe in some of the most important exhibitions and museums.

On the Prince of Wales museum: The CSMVS, formerly the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, was built at the behest of the people of Bombay in 1914 (though it opened to the public in 1922) and sits in domed splendour in South Mumbai. In the past few years, thanks to donations and government grants, it has spluttered into life.

A few rich guys who wanted to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales thought of building a museum in his honour in 1904. The building was completed in 1915, and, after being used as a hospital during WWI, was inaugurated as a museum in early 1922.
The museum's been flourishing for a long time, rather than having 'spluttered into life' in the past few years. Kalpana Desai, the museum's previous head, did a lot in terms of outreach to young students in the 1990s.

On Gallery Maskara: In a neighbourhood of matchbox-sized spaces, this former grain storage facility is enviously roomy. The ceiling alone soars to about 50ft, allowing for giant installations ...

If I'm not mistaken, the storage space was meant for cotton. That's why the ceiling's so high.

About Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke: One of the very few Mumbai galleries to bring in noteworthy international names (such as Kiki Smith and Wolfgang Laib), Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, run by mother-and-daughter team Usha Mirchandani and Ranjana Steinruecke, also rotates local talent on its small but expertly curated list – including the likes of Tejal Shah and Mansi Bhatt.

I'm certain Tejal Shah is not represented any longer by Usha and Ranjana. Neither, as far as I know, is Mansi Bhatt, whose last Bombay show was at Chatterjee & Lal.

On Chatterjee & Lal: Though compact, this one-room gallery in Colaba, founded by husband-and-wife team Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal, has already managed to push the boundaries of contemporary art: it was among the first to host performance artist Nikhil Chopra, who spent three continuous days and nights in the gallery, as well as staging retrospectives of Amrita Sher-Gil, and the hugely talented but little-known Pakistani photographer Nasreen Mohamedi.

A retrospective of Amrita Sher-Gil? It must've been tough to get the NGMA to loan all those canvases. As for the 'hugely talented but little-known Pakistani photographer Nasreen Mohamedi', well, I'm sure Nayantara's got feedback on that one and is cringing already, but for those who aren't aware, Nasreen Mohamedi was Indian, and is pretty well-known. She was selected posthumously for the last Documenta in Kassel, which gave her international prominence. Nasreen did shoot some fabulous photographs, but characterising her as a photographer is almost as much a stretch as calling her 'little-known'.

So, OK, there are a few dozen people out there waiting for me to write an under-researched article so they can get back at me. I can add Nayantara Kilachand to that list. The good news is that the gallerists she's written about don't care that her piece is full of errors. They're in a top ten list in the Guardian, that's all that counts.

Update: Some of the mistakes have been corrected since I wrote.
Update: Now, Matthieu Foss has been taken off, and replaced by Tasveer, which isn't even based in Bombay. the gallery shows now and again at Vickram Sethi's ICIA. But to rank Tasveer above Sakshi, Pundole et al is utterly ridiculous.


adrian mckinty said...


Have you seen this:

Girish Shahane said...

I hadn't, Adrian, thanks