“The thing about Mumbai is you go five yards and all of human existence is revealed. It’s an incredible cavalcade of life.” – Julian Sands
Mumbai – the city of dreams. The city with thousands of years of history. The city where all parts of India collide – young and old, traditional and contemporary, east and west, north and south. It’s no wonder then that the city is home to a thriving and flourishing arts scene that attracts visitors from across India and beyond. From eye-catching street art to landmark historical institutions, and experimental collaborative art spaces to high-brow galleries, Mumbai offers art lovers of all persuasions a chance to get lost in the creativity, colors, and currents of its many creators and creations.
Mumbai Art Room
Founded in 2011, the small but innovative Mumbai Art Room exists as an experimental space for contemporary art, design, and visual exhibits from around the world. It also serves as a dynamic and accessible training center for future curators from both India and abroad, and aspires to inspire and mold the next generation of art curators as they launch their careers and bring art to the world. Exhibits at the Mumbai Art Room rotate periodically, so you’ll always have a chance to catch a new piece.
Gallery Chemould – one of the oldest commercial galleries in India – traces its roots back to 1963, but this doesn’t mean its offerings are stuck in the past. With a rotating selection of contemporary pieces, the small but spacious gallery offers exhibitions, artist talks, and much more. Across its history, the gallery has been a key part of the success of numerous notable modern and contemporary artists in India, so if you’re lucky you might even get to see the work of India’s next big name on display. Guests are often taken by the gallery’s architectural charm, as it’s housed in an old heritage building. A particularly helpful and friendly curatorial staff also awaits you when you visit!
If you’re looking for a more institutional experience with which to explore modern art in Mumbai, the National Gallery of Modern Art is the spot for you, especially if you have a bit more time on your hands. Just like with all large museums, you can visit the NGMA multiple times and still not see all the paintings and sculptures on display. Luckily, the museum has free guided walks to help you make your way through all the treasures it has to offer (though the museum is well-organized and well-labeled, so feel free to stroll around on your own too!). In addition to the galleries, the NGMA also offers workshops, talks, film screenings, childrens’ events, and performances.
Visitors love to flock to the Jehangir art gallery, where entry is free and you get a unique chance to meet some of the artists whose work you’re seeing. The gallery has been an important hub for the development of India’s contemporary art scene since its inception in 1952. Presently, it hosts over 300 shows every year. Though cozy, the gallery has an excellent collection of exhibitions and artists (both more traditional and modern), and rotates frequently – meaning every visit feels like the first time. From installations, to photography, and paintings to mixed media, the Jehangir gallery truly caters to every taste. But perhaps the best part of this gallery is that you can actually buy some of the pieces exhibited if you so desire. So make sure you bring your pocket book, and head over soon to one of Mumbai’s most storied galleries.
Housed in a former metal printing press, Project 88 is one of Mumbai’s most dynamic and visually engaging art spaces today. Some have gone as far as to say the space is “the future of contemporary art in South Asia.” Opened in 2006, the must-visit gallery hosts mostly experimental works across all media forms, simultaneously championing emerging artists and engaging with respected mid-career artists. Exhibitions rotate periodically, and the gallery regularly participates in the city’s art fairs and gallery weekends.
Bhau Daji Lad Museum
The Bhau Daji Lad Museum, one of the oldest museums in the city, is another institutional must-visit for art lovers coming to Mumbai, and particularly those interested in learning more about the history of the city. Built in 1872, the stunning landmark houses over 15,000 pieces (including photography, books, maps, textiles, and more) focusing on Mumbai’s long history. A visit to the museum is even worth it for the architecture alone. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the scale of it all? Not to worry – the museum offers free public tours in English every Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am. The museum, which also houses a cafe and a shop, often features contemporary exhibitions, as well as musical, dance, and theater performances.
Opened in 2010 by the Jhaveri sisters, the seafront Jhaveri Contemporary gallery has already featured the likes of the world-renowned Anish Kapoor, so you know you’re in for a treat. The premier art gallery, which is nestled in a 130-year-old mansion, combines old and new. It explores cross-generational artistry, typically featuring four modern artists prominent and 12 contemporary artists at once. The gallery also engages in original scholarship to further discussions around contemporary art, South Asia, psychology, and other subjects intertwined with the work displayed.
Chatterjee & Lal
The Chatterjee & Lal gallery is another must-see in Mumbai. Founded in 2003, it was originally opened to provide a platform for emerging artists – something that did not yet exist in Mumbai. However, with the dramatic growth of Mumbai’s contemporary arts scene, the gallery has been able to help shape the development, and grow to accommodate both emerging and more established artists. Since its opening, the gallery has weaved in more historical pieces and artists to help capture and document the development of the city’s contemporary art scene, while still focusing primarily on exhibiting art being produced today. Featuring performance art, photography, sculpture, video installations, paintings, and drawings, the space is an amalgamation of the impressive array of Indian and South Asian artists that are making names for themselves today. The owners – husband and wife team Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal – hope to continue adding more international artists as the gallery continues to evolve and grow along with the city’s contemporary art scene.
Mumbai Art Room – Pipewala Building, Fourth Pasta Lane, Colaba; Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-7pm
Chemould – 3rd Floor, Queens Mansion G Talwatkar Marg, Fort Mumbai
NGMA – Sir Cowasji Jahangir Public Hall, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai; Open Tuesday-Friday, 11am to 6pm, Saturday & Sunday: 11am-8pm (Closed on Mondays)
Jehangir – 161- Kala Ghoda, Mumbai; Open daily, 11am-7pm
Bhau Daji Lad Museum – Veer Mata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan (Rani Baug), 91/A, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Road Byculla East; Open Thursday to Tuesday, 10am-6pm (closed Wednesdays)
Jhaveri Contemporary – 3rd Floor Devidas Mansion 4 Mereweather road Apollo Bandar Colaba; Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-7pm
Chatterjee & Lal – 01/18 Kamal Mansion Floor 1 Arthur Bunder Road Colaba; Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-7pm
Artists to check out
You’ll find it hard to look away from the work’s of one of Mumbai’s most unique contemporary artists, Shilpa Gupta. Born in 1976 in Mumbai, Gupta has exhibited her work in prestigious galleries around the world, and has received numerous international accolades and awards. She is perhaps best known for her animated light installation project, “My East is Your West” – a two-person joint India-Pakistan exhibition which was featured at the 56th Venice Biennale. Gupta is also a published author and her works of art can be seen in numerous galleries across Mumbai.
Jitish Kallat, born in Mumbai in 1974, is another local artist to check out during your visit to the city. Kallat works across a variety of mediums – including painting, photography, drawing, video, and sculpture – and has had his pieces exhibited around the world including at the Tate Modern, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, and the Kunst Museum. His work is deeply shaped by the city of his birth and residence, and in it he explores topics such as the city’s socioeconomic divide and political development. His pieces have also been featured locally at the CSMVS and Bhau Daji Lad Museums in Mumbai.
Born in 1980 in Rajasthan, Nandan Ghiya received no formal art training, but continues to impress audiences with eye-catching mixed media works in which he digitally manipulates studio portraits to create a set of contemporary images that seem to crisscross time. In his works, Ghiya explores India’s colonial past, cultural identities, and the idea of the individual, and how technology can dramatically shape our perception and understanding of these concepts.
Reena Saini Kallat
Reena Saini Kallat, a Mumbai-based multimedia artist known for her drawing, photography, sculpture, and video pieces, focuses on the past and our understanding of it. Born in New Delhi in 1973, her sometimes (literally) larger-than-life works also explore topics of migration and cultural identity, bureaucracy, the individual vis-a-vis the state, cultural amnesia, climate change and the environment. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is currently being shown in the United States, Paraguay, and Switzerland.
One of the pioneers of contemporary Indian art, Atul Dodiya, makes his home in Mumbai where he explores popular culture, literature, cinema, socioeconomics, and globalization to inform his multimedia work. Born in 1959, Dodiya is perhaps most famous for his 1999 artistic series on Mahatma Gandhi. His works have been featured internationally, and also locally at venues such as the Chemould Gallery and Bodhi Art.
Pri is a true believer in the Rule of Three - she lives between Dubai, Bombay and Washington DC, speaks three languages and has 3 kids under 3. She graduated from Connecticut College and has a Masters Degree from New York University. Pri is a licensed Dubai tour guide, travel blogger, art aficionado, foodie and curious to check out all things new in her city. Pri has been part of the Free Tours By Foot team since 2015 and loves to make customized itineraries for her guests.