CITYSCAPE Magazine

Time to stand and stare

Jiten Thukral and Sumer Tagra

Jiten Thukral and Sumer Tagra   | Photo Credit: GRJGM

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The writer explores Art House Guild, Mumbai, a concept that aims to make art a part of everyday life.

Mumbai has something new around every corner, every day. But the overwhelming and underlying hustle, hurry and haste to get somewhere at some special time leaves the average Mumbaikar with little time to appreciate the finer aspects of life, from art to music that goes beyond Bollywood, history — just plain and simple beauty.

Public displays of sculptures located on traffic islands, gardens or on pavements are one way to add that touch of the aesthetic to an otherwise fully busy life.

And then there is Art House Guild, a new six-floor (plus two levels of basement) commercial space in the centre of the city that looks to seamlessly integrate art into its public spaces — lobby areas, foyers, corridors and lounges. Perhaps the first of its kind in Mumbai, it has been conceptualised with a ‘green’ framework to create an ambience of positivity, using architecture, light and interactivity to make a power statement and showcase carefully curated collections of art. “The audience will be corporate houses and companies looking at office spaces that offer a vibrant, dynamic ambience for their employees. Art Guild House is about bringing people closer to art and art being a part of everyday life,” says Gayatri Ruia, whose baby this project is.

Though Art Guild House will be completed only in 2015, it has already been the venue for a show curated by Usha Gawde, with works by Shilpa Gupta, Narendra Yadav, Thukral and Tagra, Sunil Gawde and Justin Ponmany. The building itself is artfully designed, with atria, skylights, light well courts, Italian marble, landscaping and illuminations designed to highlight the art that will decorate it. Some of the works will be permanent exhibits, while others will be specially curated and perhaps commissioned. Usha Gawde believes that this concept could present “an opportunity to people from all strata of society to sensitise themselves to art and culture”. Ruia explains, “The biggest USP is that the art will be accessible to public; all foyer places will be like a virtual art gallery. Not only office goers, but the general public visiting the Phoenix Marketcity complex will also have access to view the art at the Art Guild House.”

Ruia describes the structure as “a premium state of the art commercial building that will offer opulent interiors with exquisite art installations, never seen before structural interiors - dynamic art galleries amidst a sophisticated business environment. The building is enveloped by a façade that is a reflection of the contemporary style of architecture. The highly-spaced building has world class amenities, grand atriums and lobbies, sprawling office spaces ranging from 900 to 4000 square feet, planned over six floors and two basement parking levels to fit the need of diverse companies. The building is a LEED Gold certified and the offices at the lower level have well lit ‘lightwells’ integrated into their design to allow daylight into the offices, which is a unique feature.”

Gawde had discussed the idea of Art Guild House (AGH) with Ruia and her team. “I curated the show, which I felt would be a window into what AGH would represent. All the works shown had an underlying concept of light, time, space, the division of space… And all the artists involved not only achieved a certain level of maturity in the way they think, but also show a remarkable knowledge of materials and skill.” She is committed to the idea of bringing art out of the conventional spaces it is generally shown in. “I feel that it would be quite an exciting challenge to undertake this, probably also an enriching experience for all of us—myself, AGH and the audience. “We are not necessarily presenting art to a well-informed set of viewers,” but also to those who know not-too-much about the esoteric world of aesthetics. Without being patronising, I sincerely feel that art and culture is one way of developing a more sensitive society.”

But will that society, that general public really stop and ‘feel’ the art? Will there be time in their over-busy lives to do that? Ruia is confident that “people can always appreciate art in passing. It will be art that will stop you in your tracks and break your monotonous routine. It will add that dash of colour, excitement, amusement to your daily life. And people who have a deeper interest in art can always get more details from the curators.” And it will be a means of refreshment, relaxation, learning, a moment of quietude that reenergises, too. “Providing a relaxing, refreshing ambience and bringing art closer to your daily life is exactly the idea behind incorporating art into commercial space. We are sure to elevate the work/life experience for all offices at Art Guild House,” Ruia believes

And the next exhibition? “All shows of AGH will be specially curated and themed and we will liaise with galleries and specialists. The programming will include lots of exciting shows and hopefully some collaboration from foreign artists as well.”

But is this sort of ‘art-space’ viable in the rushed environment of Mumbai? Gawde says indeed it is. “Like everything, one has to work towards it. That is part of the challenge now — to convert, sensitise and seek involvement from people from all strata of society. Art need not be niche. I am hoping for the best here — I do feel that there are a large number of people that could be our discerning audience!”

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 5:48:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/time-to-stand-and-stare/article6228445.ece

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