The ongoing Mumbai Art Fair is a platform designed to showcase and support independent artists from all around India.
The ground floor of the Discovery of India building in the Nehru Centre is divided into 130 booths, with 250 artists exhibiting their artworks. Unlike the usual exhibitions, the Mumbai Art Fair (MAF) — with almost 1500 art-pieces ranging from paintings, sculptures, photography, ceramics, oleographs, installations, and original prints — is not catering to galleries and rather intends to ‘democratise art viewing and buying’.
This ongoing contemporary art fair is the brainchild of a team that annually organises the renowned festival—India Art Fair. And giving it a rather local spin, Rajendra, the Founder and Managing Director of India Art Festival explains that this debut chapter is a platform solely for independent artists as they get caught up in the competition and expenses of the gallery system. “Our institution and company have been organising India Arts Festival since 2011. But in that festival, 70% space is taken up by art galleries, art dealers, and online galleries. So artists don’t get much space there,” he says.
For Surabhi Gaikwad Uzgare, the Qatar-based Goan artist, it is her first time participating in an art fair format. She echoes the concern of independent artists and explains, “In this particular art fair, there are no galleries and sometimes it is so difficult to get through galleries. Here you have access to something like that at a minimal cost. You get a chance to peg your work on your own merit, and you really don’t have to scout for galleries or wait for galleries to spot you.” Her paintings incorporate an amalgamation of her inclination towards nature and figurative drawings.
Rajendra, who is also the Vice President of the Bombay Art Society, further, explains that besides giving space to independent artists at MAF, their purpose is also to support the young budding artists who have just graduated from college. “Private galleries watch the artists for one-two years after they graduate and if they find the work to their taste, only then they accommodate them in the gallery system. For the new upcoming artists who have just graduated from college, it will be very chaotic to start their professional careers. Thereafter, an experimentation phase ensues for the next three to five years, during which depending on the artist’s perception level and grasping power, he comes up with his own style, subject, stylisation, colour scheme and everything. It takes a while to find his calling,” he explains. Therefore, according to him, by displaying their work in exhibitions like MAF, it will support these young artists morally and financially during their formative years.
The MAF has a diverse body of artwork on display ranging from fluid art to bead art and artists coming together from all corners of India. There is one booth that also showcases the culture and art of Tonga, a Polynesian South Pacific Island to the fair. The artist Ilaisa Latu who is married to Shubhra has been a resident of Mumbai for 11 years, but his artwork is reflective of his home country. Painted from mangrove root ink on the Tapa cloth, the indigenous artworks with little splashes of acrylic have “elements from the ocean” and deep metaphorical meanings.
Today is the last day of the exhibition at Nehru Centre, Worli.