'Pieta' from Lakshman Rao Kotturu's exhibit Footprints on a Broken Mirror at Sakshi Art Gallery
Since I hadn’t visited a lot of the many art galleries in Bombay, I thought, going on the August Art Night Thursday that I came across while scrolling my newsfeed, would be a great way to visit them all in one evening; especially along with people who knew their stuff, leading the way.
Natasha Jeyasingh and Nathan Wadhwani met through common friends about a year ago. Having just moved from San Francisco, Nathan, a self-taught tech start-up founder was relatively unfamiliar with Mumbai. Natasha, a Mumbai based Creative Manager and Art Consultant with a BFA in Sculpture, and a PG Diploma in Design from NID, enjoyed several conversations about contemporary Indian art with Nathan, and offered to show him around the galleries in the city. They soon realized that many other people they knew would love a similar tour, so they started inviting people to join them on subsequent walks.
By February 2017 this had evolved into a regular event, Art Night Thursday, that happen every second Thursday of the month. A schedule is posted on the facebook group with the galleries they plan to visit over the course of the evening, and you can join in wherever you like. The walk is free of charge and is for anyone interested in art.
Lakshman Rao Kotturu's exhibit Footprints on a Broken Mirror at Sakshi Art Gallery
“The goal is to make it a community thing, so people who’ve never been to a gallery or aren’t familiar with art are less daunted by the idea of visiting such a space, because it’s done as a group,” says Natasha. The idea was also to encourage people to engage with the art of our generation and to make it a part of their lives. “I believe that art serves as a cultural marker of our times. And if you do not engage with it because you feel its unapproachable, then you cannot support it. And if we don’t step in to support it, we are losing a vital part of history.” The walk allows people to discover different artists and different mediums of art. It allows them to understand what they are drawn to as art and because they are with other art lovers, they can discuss, debate and form opinions.
What I enjoyed most about the art hop was being able to interact with the artists at the shows, and hear them talk about the work and their inspirations. At the third stop I met the genuine and rather unassuming Lakshman Rao Kotturu at his show ‘Footprints on a Broken Mirror’ at Sakshi Art Gallery and heard from him first hand about the 500 fascinating tiny m-seal elephants arranged to look like a horde of ants swarming across the floor and wall. At Sakshi Salon I got to meet radiologist and cartoonist Hemant Morporia and tell him exactly which of his pieces at his show ‘Motabhai Is Watching You’ I knew my dad would guffaw at.
“I’ve found that most artists are happy to engage with an audience, many of them work in isolation and so to really witness how their work connects with an audience is something that most of them appreciate,” says Natasha “For the people who join us, one of the things we keep reinforcing is that there are no stupid questions. A lot of people are overwhelmed by the idea of contemporary art and going to a gallery because they are afraid they won’t understand anything and are too shy to ask. We’re trying to break that by encouraging people to ask whatever they want, no question is too silly. The galleries and the artists have been most kind with these queries, taking the time to explain things. I know there is a school of thought that art is visual and shouldn’t need an explanation but for a lot of people, the interaction and explanation does help them engage better,” says Natasha.
Art by cartoonist Hemant Morporia from his show Motabhai Is Watching You
A section of the people Natasha and Nathan have come across on the walks come with the mindset that art is bought only as investment, which is something they try to break. “When you buy an expensive handbag or a pair of shoes, you don’t buy it with the expectation that it will be worth more in 5 or 10 years, you buy it because you like it and enjoy wearing it. That is the mindset with which you should buy art, because you like it and enjoy having it around you. It’s good to support upcoming artists because you make a difference to their career trajectory. You have to remember that all of the top artists today were once upcoming artists who were lucky to find people who supported them.” she says.
They also explained that owning art isn’t necessarily expensive or complicated. Photographs, prints, unique work by upcoming artists are all affordable. Galleries and even artists will often allow you to pay in installments if you like something. Natasha who has overseen the refurbishing of the State Hall at 'Rashtrapati Bhavan' the Presidential Palace in New Delhi and curated collaborative shows at the Apparao Gallery in Madras as part of her career, is often helping people discover the art they love and build their personal collections. Nathan who has studied natural sciences and economics, and also worked in finance for a while before teaching himself how to program and moving to the technology sector, has a deep love for contemporary art that has seen him start his own collection, as well as co-found the Carpe Arte platform to encourage people to engage with and support the art of our generation.
Birender Yadav's Solo Show at Clark House Initiative
Apart from Art Night Thursday which happens on the second Thursday of every month, Carpe Arte also organizes studio visits, visits to private collections and interactions with people from the art world – artists, collectives, curators, gallerists, collectors – anything that can help people understand and engage with art better.
“Our last studio visit was at the studio of Shahid Datawala who took us through his practice and medium of choice - Photography.” Nathan tells us. “The talk was particularly interesting because Shahid is also an active designer and commercial photographer, making him one of the few artists whose practice extends beyond his art. We also got to look at his collection of vintage objects, prints and art, allowing us to better understand his inspirations. The visit ended with chai, conversation and curiosities.”
Why the name Carpe Arte? “The name was a fun thing,” Natasha says. “I had been talking about my Instagram account where I aim to post an art work a day (though I’ve been lazy about it). I eventually named it artpediem which was a play on Carpe Diem or a sort of mash up for art a day and then I suggested Carpe Arte for the group because we really did want people to Seize the Art so as to say.”
Studio Visit to photographer Shahid Datawala's space
So grab a friend and go on the art hop this Thursday. Immerse yourself in the work, enjoy the free wine and snacks at the galleries, interact with the artists, chat with the group and perhaps think about starting to add to your own collection. Seize the art and much more on the Carpe Arte Facebook group.
Design Log is a weekly design document logging every relevant art and design occurrence in India.
Image source: Carpe Arte and Sakshi Art Gallery