20 years, 100 artists, 2,000 artworks – the creative journey of Tao Art Gallery

In our concluding photo-essay on the exhibition ‘Tapestry of Time,’ we feature more outstanding artworks along with creative insights from curator-director Sanjana Shah.

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory Media, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 475 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

Having featured more than 100 artists over the years and with a stock inventory of over 2,000 artworks, Mumbai’s Tao Art Gallery celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The occasion was marked with a special exhibition titled The Tapestry of Time (see our full coverage here).

Earlier art exhibitions held at Tao in 2017 included Parallel Wings (by Rini Dhumal), Reflections in Mercury (Jaideep Mehrotra), Sheer Layers Uncover the Truth (Arunanshu Chowdhury), The Eye Within, and Silent Spectacle (17th anniversary show).

Creative director Sanjana Shah calls for more art appreciation in India. “I think the key point is educating the public about how to interact with and appreciate art, in the first place. There is a lot of intimidation and hesitation around how to approach art,” she explains, in a chat with YourStory.

Many people avoid going to galleries as they are worried they may come across as ignorant. “This probably has its roots in our Indian education system that reinforces the idea of art as being something specific that needs to be learnt,” Sanjana observes.

Tao launched its ‘Educate For Art’ initiative to try to dispel such myths and promote the idea of art as universal, personal and intuitive. Sanjana advises audiences to approach the art experience in galleries, public art events, and online forums with an open mind and keen curiosity.

Over the years, there has been a growing number of art events in Mumbai such as Art Night Thursday and Friday, as well as walkthroughs and art workshops. “Art is definitely more accessible in a city like Mumbai today,” Sanjana emphasises.

Having guides to know what is happening, and joining groups like Carpe Art and Mumbai Midtown Arts Collective help in this regard. Tracking events on social media gives up-to-date information, fresh insights, and community connects as well.

Sanjana also shares her experience with other international art events. “I think the Venice Biennale is by far one of the most experiential and well-curated art events globally,” she enthuses. She likes the idea of biennales over art fairs because it allows people to roam around a whole city and experience the interaction of site-specific art created in cohesion with its surroundings.

Art exhibitions held at Tao in 2016 included Blending Impastos (by Anwar), Me and My World, Abstract Stories, and Scape and Scope (16th anniversary show). The 2015 lineup featured The Eternal Icon (by Ratan Saha), The Life of a Mahatma (Osianama), Landscape of Life (Kalpana Shah), and The Ecstasy of Art (15th anniversary show).

The artist lineup of the 20th anniversary exhibition, some of whose works are included in this photo essay, features Amit Ambalal, Arunanshu Chowdhury, Brinda Miller, Ganesh Haloi, Ingrid Pitzer, Jitish Kallat, Khushboo Pandit, Madhvi Parekh, Milburn Cherian, Rameshwar Broota, Reena Saini Kallat, Satish Gupta, Shampa Sircar Das, Sohan Qadri, Sujata Bajaj, and Vivan Sundaram. Some of the artworks are priced from below Rs 1 lakh up to Rs 70 lakh.

(Note: The photographs in this pictorial essay were taken before the national lockdown due to the coronavirus. The visit to the gallery was not in violation of any public safety guidelines.)

“It is crucial for first-time buyers and collectors to get insights from gallery curators and sales teams in order to see a variety of options,” Sanjana advises. This helps develop the crucial sense of what resonates on a personal level.

“While investing, it is important to know more about the artist and forecast to a certain extent the future of that artist. But that is again never a guaranteed prediction – what is most important is the personal connection,” Sanjana emphasises.

“At the end of the day, the artwork is something one lives with and has to enjoy thoroughly, like any other luxury one buys,” she adds.

She concludes with some advice for aspiring artists as well. “It is crucial to keep exploring and working towards making your art known far and wide. Inclusion and connection is at the core of all art. Unfiltered innovation and exploration is the future of contemporary art in India,” she emphasises.

“Avoid trends and pleasing the audience either aesthetically or conceptually. Stick true to your own vision guided by your journey as an artist,” Sanjana signs off.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and stick to your creative core during these troubled times?

Got a creative photograph to share? Email us at PhotoSparks@YourStory.com!

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Edited by Javed Gaihlot