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Mumbai art galleries are promoting foreign artists for a potential market
In Mumbai Art Room, a small two-room space located in one of the Colaba bylanes, a month-long exhibition of Armenian-French video artist Melik Ohanian concluded last week. Nearby, Gallery Maskara has four contemporary Belgian artists showcasing their works in a month-long exhibition, the first-of-its-kind in the country.
Last week, Sakshi Gallery played host to a show by British artist Julian Opie, for the second time in two years, even as Galerie Mirchandani+Steinruecke's exhibited fine-sketch drawings of British artist Nicola Durvasulala. Jhaveri Contemporary gallery at Walkeshwar Road is currently displaying works of Pakistani artist Hamra Abbas for the first time in the country.
While international artists exhibiting in Mumbai is not entirely new, these recent instances reflect the fact that the city has witnessed a marked rise in the number of such shows. Clearly, Mumbai's galleries are now warming up to the works of artists from across the shores. "People are wearing western clothes and eating global cuisine. In the art world too, there is an attitudinal shift happening. People have started thinking, 'Why should my art be confined to my nationality?" says Abhay Maskara, director of Gallery Maskara.
If Mumbai's increasingly global citizens are ready to look beyond Indian art, the galleries are seeing it as an exercise to expand their repertoire. "It's like the way it was with films; after the DVD and Internet boom, the popularity of Iranian and Korean cinema, which we were not familiar with, soared," says Geetha Mehra, director of Sakshi Gallery. "Similarly," she says, "people want to look beyond the top 20-30 Indian artists that we have, and foreign artists are a breath of fresh air." Her gallery has been host to a wide range of artists from Israel, Netherlands, Brazil, Japan and England. "Its a part of a long-term process," she says.