Mumbai is a city of contrasts. While trying to work the cogwheels of our daily lives, we sometimes forget to stop and admire the city’s beauty. It’s where tradition is constantly blending with modernity and a potpourri of people come together. It’s almost 4 pm on a sunny Sunday afternoon and I find myself staring at the white iconic Town Hall stairs that have been captured in many, many films. I’m joined by four others and we begin our Art Galleries of South Mumbai tour under Sherpa Reeti. We are an odd group – an anthropologist-cum-Sherpa, a policy man working for a high-profile MP, an IITian working in a start-up and a content writer. Reeti tells me her tours often invite a variety of people, from history buffs to professional artists to amateur art enthusiasts like you and me.
Photo credit: Reeti Roy
We start the tour at the picturesque Town Hall or the Asiatic Society Central Library. A short history lesson marks the commencement and we learn the architectural importance of the building and the contrast between the various architectural styles in the neighborhood. Opposite the building is a lush green expanse (expanse, of course keeping in mind Mumbai’s measly standards). This is the Horniman Circle Garden. From there after a quick get-to-know, we proceed to Jehangir Art Gallery. On our way we see the artsy wall painting outside the Indian Navy‘s Lion Gate. The nautical design reaffirms our already subconscious knowledge that we are in a restricted zone. On the opposite side is St. Andrews Church next to K R Cama Oriental Institute, both exquisite in their architecture.
Photo credit: Rohit Sonawane
Once we arrive at the Jehangir Art Gallery, we meet street artists. We see a variety that astounds us immediately. Pencil sketches, black and white pen drawings, acrylic paintings; it is all there. We interact with some artists and learn a lot about the art culture of the city. Once inside the gallery, the stark constrast in art-styles is almost unavoidable. We are lucky and we get to see four exhibitions. This includes modern art, architectural 3-D artand traditional paintings with modern outooks. Small discussions ensue about the art works and Sherpa Reeti‘s knowledge of the matter enlightens us.
Sadly, the remaining part of the tour that contained a look-through Delhi Art Gallery and National Gallery of Modern Art could not be conducted, as these were closed. I suggest you check up with the art galleries or with SeekSherpa before booking the tour. Art Galleries and old institutions like theDavid Sassoon Library are often closed on certain days due to holidays or changes in exhibitions. The Kenneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue (the Blue Synagogue) is another architectural marvel in the Kala Ghoda area, which gives us a sense of the Jewish history of the city. A dissapointment that it isn’t open to public anymore.
Photo credit: Rohit Sonawane
SeekSherpa‘s tour offers so much more than a mere tour of the art galleries of South Mumbai. It is a view into a gone-by era and the novel art sensibilities of the city. You see the city’s spirit of retaining the new in the old.
A quick tête-à-tête with Sherpa Reeti:
How and why did you become a Sherpa?
I have two different friends to thank for this. A childhood friend was visiting me in Mumbai. She has a keen eye for the arts and as we were both looking around, I was telling her about the history of the place and we reminisced some of the art and architectural walks we had taken together in our hometown, Kolkata. After her visit, I was toying with the idea of becoming a tour guide when another friend (who had lived and worked in Delhi), told me about a really cool new startup, SeekSherpa. I filled in the form, applied, was interviewed and was selected. I think an art walk lends itself well to anyone with a curatorial bent of mind.
Your favorite tour and why?
Each tour is unique and special because everyone who comes on the art walks brings with them their own special perspectives. There are also often roadblocks in terms of galleries being closed (when exhibitions are changing etc). But I’ve been doing this since April of this year and I am really enjoying my work.
Two things you love and two things you hate about the art scene of Mumbai.
Two things I love – Curiosity, experimentation and willingness to learn.
Two things I would like changed – I wish there more public spaces for emerging artists to hone their craft and there were more artist residencies in Mumbai.