Why Mumbai is The City Art Lovers Need to Visit Now
The reopening of the Taj Mahal’s art gallery, along with a wave of new exhibition space, puts this city at the forefront of the global arts scene.
These days art is everywhere in Mumbai—from the mural-splashed alleys of Kala Ghoda to the Bollywood billboards presiding over the Colaba traffic, and the décor of the hip, music-filled cafes in Bandra. While more galleries have steadily been opening in recent years, it’s reached a fever pitch—with bigger spaces and more prominent names hitting the scene, and greater support from locals and travelers than ever before.
Mumbai has been a contemporary art hub for some time, but it’s taken a while for this reputation to spread worldwide. “Now that art from India is plugged into the global art network, the city has become the focus of the attention,” said Mortimer Chatterjee, the art curator at the newly reopened Taj, and a director of the gallery Chatterjee & Lal, along with his wife, Tara Lal. “There is a spirit of collaboration among galleries in the city, and so newer galleries can look to their more experienced peers for advice and support.”
“With major art events now embedded into the cultural calendar of the city, such as the monthly Art Night Thursday and the yearly Mumbai Gallery Weekend, it seemed a good opportunity for the Taj to reclaim its place at the heart of the city’s art activities,” he said. To welcome it back, we look at the Taj and a few other spots making the biggest waves in the city right now.
Related: Eight Secrets of the Taj Mahal
Taj Art Gallery
The storied Taj Mahal Palace overlooking the Gateway of India may be more than a century old, but its new art gallery offers a fresh take on Mumbai’s art revival. With one of the city’s oldest and most comprehensive collections, it’s an ideal basecamp for orienting yourself to the scene. The Taj Art Gallery originally opened in 1964 and boasted a first-rate collection and exhibitions of notable artists at the time. It closed in the mid-1990s. Now, nearly 20 years later, it’s back again, occupying some 1,000 square feet in the hotel’s Heritage Palace Wing, where paintings, sculptures, and video installations by prominent and emerging Indian artists fill the space. Expect moody abstractionist paintings by Laxman Shreshtha and Ram Kumar, V.S Gaitonde, and Jehangir Sabavala, as well as diverse works by international artists.
Art is ubiquitous throughout the property’s historic Moorish-Florentine grounds—reflected in everything from the 200 works on display outside the gallery, to the cantilever staircase and onyx columns throughout, the Ravi Shankar suite where George Harrison studied sitar, and even the contemporary Indian cuisine at Masala Kraft. Plus, the in-house Jiva Spa can remedy almost any creative block with one of their Indian wellness treatments.
Akara Art Gallery
Around the corner from the Taj is newcomer Akara Art Gallery, which turned a heritage building into a bright, airy modern space at the end of last year. Contemporary Indian artists, as well as some international names with relationships to India, explore themes like “Mysteries of the Organism” through their work. Paintings depict fascinating points of view on Indian landscape, portraits, and culture.
Up the peninsula, a brave new group just transformed a decrepit mill into an art warehouse wonderland. G5A hones works-in-progress, avant-garde projects, and underrepresented topics in their flexible space, which features a black box performance venue for screenings, areas for workshops, a ground-floor cafe with communal seating for tea-fueled brainstorming sessions, and a rooftop terrace decked with blossoming frangipanis and herbs, used for al fresco poetry slams and music performances.