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Mumbai just got its first-ever Indian contemporary art fair

The first edition of Art Mumbai opens at Mahalaxmi Racecourse as a four-day-long fair.
a woman sitting on a bench in an art gallery

Does a fair like Art Mumbai make sense? Among the traffic snarls and the rampant redevelopment, it’s hard to envision Mumbai as an art city. But it has always been.

The maximum city houses one of India’s oldest art schools, the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art, which was founded in 1857. Mumbai’s Art Deco buildings would have probably not come about had it not been for the work done by the Indian Institute of Architects. And who can forget the street stories of M.F. Hussain walking barefoot? It was around when the city saw the coming together of the Progressive Artists’ Group.

For decades, Mumbai has been home to several contemporary art galleries. But it’s only now that it’s getting its first art fair in the form of Art Mumbai. Whether you’re a collector, a connoisseur, a creative, or just curious, the four-day-long art fair is worth meandering through.

Art Mumbai team

The team behind Art Mumbai. Photo: Art Mumbai

Art Mumbai has been envisioned by Minal and Dinesh Vazirani of Saffronart, Nakul Dev Chawla of the Chawla Art Gallery, New Delhi, and Conor Macklin, director of Grosvenor Gallery, London. It is being hosted at Mahalaxmi Racecourse Members Enclosure from November 16 to 19.

What to expect at Art Mumbai

The first edition of Art Mumbai is set to showcase a vast and finely curated selection of modern and contemporary art from India and South Asia. You can expect over 50 galleries, 300 artists, and almost 2000 artworks on display. The centrepiece for most though is the city of Mumbai.

Each gallery has tried to add an element that throws light on Mumbai. You will see that with Chemould Prescott Road’s display of Bombay-centric photos, including Pushpamala N’s Phantom Lady–2, a series of pictures in which she poses as a stunt woman and a lead actor.

An image of artist Rajesh Vora's collection

A showcase of Everyday Baroque by Rajesh Vora at the Photoink booth.

Another photo-led booth, presented by Photoink features artist Rajesh Vora’s Everyday Baroque exhibit. The photo series is a glimpse into homes built by non-residential Indians. Every picture features sculptures of Marutis, aeroplanes, boats, the Statue of Liberty, and other structures on the rooftops of rural homes in Punjab. These massive, concrete renditions of objects are a symbol of the struggles and achievements of immigrants and the size of ambition that’s seeped into Punjab’s culture and life.

As you walk through the many booths, exploring what each gallery has to display, you will also come across Manisha Gera Baswani’s work displayed by Gallery Espace. The visual artist is known for her creating cultural landscapes of connections across Asian traditions. But you can get a peek into her latest output perforated paper drawings, which she creates with pins on paper.

Why you shouldn’t miss out on the fair

Apart from walking gallery to gallery (or booth to booth), you can explore the Sculpture Garden and a mini gallery that solely hosts an exhibit by the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), the prestigious private museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in South Asia.

KNMA is also the presenting partner for the Art Mumbai Programme, supporting a range of thought-provoking panel discussions, live events and captivating performances that will serve as integral components of the fair.

In addition to this, the art fair will host a compelling curation of events and experiences such as book launches, stand-up comedy, a conversation with Art Mumbai cultural ambassador Karan Johar, heritage walks and immersive experiences in textiles and craft.

Art Mumbai has been curated to be a platform that brings together the community of artists, galleries, institutions, curators, collectors, new buyers, art professionals, enthusiasts and those simply curious about art.

You can buy tickets on Insider, which are priced at Rs. 1500 but several events are for VIP members only, passes for which start at Rs. 6,000.