As Mumbai's first and only private gallery exclusively for photography closes down, it opens up questions on India's current art market
Seven years ago, curator Matthieu Foss moved to Mumbai from Paris and became closely involved with the arts in India — more specifically, photography. One of the founders of Paris Photo, an annual photography fair held in Paris, he was no stranger to this form of art. He started working with Tasveer Arts — an organisation committed to the art of photography — managing their activities in Mumbai, but went solo soon after. Thereafter, for a brief period, he organised photography exhibitions at rented venues and eventually set up his own gallery in 2010. Matthieu Foss Gallery became the first private gallery in the city, dedicated solely to photography.
But now, and all too soon, the gallery hosted its last show, which ended on January 28. It will close down shortly. The reason Foss cites is the uncertainty of the market. "The market is difficult and uncertain at the moment," explains the 40-year-old. "It isn't just the Indian market, though. The European market is uncertain too, so we have to rely on Indian collectors only." The fact that the Indian photography market is still immature added to the gallery's struggles. However, he remains hopeful that the art market will pick up in time. "There is so much being done by artists — by Indian photographers so I'm sure it will pick up," he explains, "But this will take a few years." Meanwhile, he plans to go back to organising and curating exhibitions independently, but at rented venues.
When it opened in January 2010, Matthieu Foss Gallery made waves in Mumbai's art scene. In a city with more art galleries than can be counted, to have one dedicated to photography was a feat. In the last two years, Matthieu Foss Gallery had hosted exhibitions by a number of artists — Indian and international, new and established. It held solo exhibitions and group shows, introducing Mumbai audiences to the works of artists they might never have otherwise seen. It brought to India artists who, otherwise, may never have come.