Mumbai Urban Art Festival returns to the docks with St+art India & Asian Paints

Between the sea and the city - the Sassoon Dock Art Project Part 1 - is a sensorial experience that explores the urban fabric of Mumbai.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : Dec 24, 2022

Returning after a very memorable 2017 run, Mumbai’s Sassoon Dock will play host to a series of enigmatic and engaging art. St+art and Asian Paints return to one of the oldest dockyards in India, to literally paint the town. Launching the three-month-long Mumbai Urban Art Festival (MUAF), this new avatar of the ‘street art’ festival is taking on a more urban scale. The murals and street art will grow out of its location at the docks and expand across the city through landmark murals, experiential exhibitions, immersive installations and public programming. On December 22, 2022, the MUAF opened with the Sassoon Dock Art Project Part 1, titled Between the sea and the city. When introducing Giulia Ambrogi, Co-Founder St+art India Foundation, elaborated on the theme, emphasising that it was inspired by the festival's location and Mumbai's own history which is intricately tied to water routes and the coastline. Hanif Qureshi, Co-Founder St+art India Foundation, further elaborated on the theme in to comment to STIR saying, "The idea of 'water' comes from the sea, the coastline, and marine life, which are all highly quintessential to the city of Mumbai, and if you've ever visited the Sassoon Docks in Colaba, you'll see why. Fishing to these diverse communities isn't just an occupation but a way of life, and their heritage even predates the city of Mumbai itself. The art at Sassoon Docks embraces these community stories, aesthetics, and age-old philosophies, and it is, and always will be, an integral part of the Mumbai Urban Art Festival."

<em>Textured Tourist</em> by Khyati Trehan  | St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints | Mumbai Urban Art Festival (MUAF). | STIRworld
Textured Tourist, Khyati Trehan Image: Sohil Belim; Courtesy of St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints

Spanning diverse geographies, the exhibition aims to pose questions about our complex relationship with the environment, more specifically with water and the expanding hypercity. This year the entire festival will see a series of locations opening across January and February 2023, starting with the Sassoon Dock Art Project Part 2 and The AP Art House. The street art festival will then expand to other parts of the metropolis such as Colaba, Bandra and Mahim.

Photo Caption | St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints | Mumbai Urban Art Festival (MUAF). | STIRworld
This is a photo dump, Naman Saraiya and Nikita RanaImage: Sohil Belim; Courtesy of St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints

When asked about the staggered opening Qureshi explained, "The main reason behind exploring several locations is to offer opportunities to rediscover lesser-known paths and forgotten narratives. We aim to introduce cultural experiences through urban art for Mumbai which is home to a diverse crowd thus putting it on the global map of leading urban art. We want people to come and enjoy the art more than once rather than it being a one-off experience. We have multiple things and launches planned over the span of three months and we want the viewers to be involved throughout."

Gaysi Family_Aravani Art Project_Sohil Belim_2 | St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints | Mumbai Urban Art Festival (MUAF). | STIRworld
‘Hello, my name is...’ (2019 - present), Aqui ThamiImage: Sohil Belim; Courtesy of St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints

On entering the docks, two elements draw one in. The visual is a given, it is easy to spot the building within the compound that the MUAF is taking over. Covered in contemporary Warli murals by the Vayeda Brother and Andha Ras, Part 1 of the festival hub is hard to miss. The second is the olfactory experience of the festival's location. Without a doubt, the overwhelming smell that one has to encounter while viewing the art is perhaps a salient feature of the entire experience. Fishing docks as an olfactory experience are purposely removed from our urban lives, while the product of the dock is still consumed and enjoyed throughout the city. It is an extraordinary experience, rooted in how our cities are designed. The staggered openings further feed into this as a slow reveal of different facets of Mumbai's urban fabric.

Gaysi Family Aravani Art Project | St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints | Mumbai Urban Art Festival (MUAF). | STIRworld
Gaysi Family Aravani Art ProjectImage: Sohil Belim; Courtesy of St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints

Mural and street art, by their very nature, activate surfaces. That is an aspect one would see here, beginning with the external facade of the building to the interiors, up the stairs, into the bathrooms and then finally on the terrace, which features a work by Spanish artist Okuda; each of these surfaces tells a story. The mural also reinterprets the surfaces, transforming ordinary elements of architecture into canvases. The artwork inside the building is a balance of well-lit rooms that exposes the industrial aesthetic of the building to dark black cubes with artwork lit with spotlighting giving one a constant contrast in experience.

Sameer Kulavoor and Sandeep Meher, supported by TARQ
metromorphosis (2022), Sameer Kulavoor and Sandeep Meher, supported by TARQImage: Sohil Belim; Courtesy of St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints

The play of spatial contrast is a consistent experience. Starting with the volumetric installation by Serge Attukwei Clottey, offers a grand scale that one can walk under, further down one has to duck under a low door wedged under a staircase to enter Aashti Miller's Choropleth room. Throughout this experience, one would also be hearing the constant sound of water. This is not from the sea. Rather it is the Pipes and Leaks of Sajid Wajid Shaikh and Ronak Soni's installation. The first leg of the festival is a more holistic sensorial experience, not just a visual treat.

<em>Refraction of Reflections</em>Trespassers
Refraction of Reflections, TrespassersImage: Sohil Belim; Courtesy of St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints

Permanent outdoor murals will enrich this hyper-characteristic site while leading to the three indoor experiential exhibitions. Large-scale, site-specific, and experimental, the art installations span from new media art to lighting design-based works that are meant to immerse the viewer in reflections between the sea and the city. Over the weekends, a host of workshops, talks, art walks, performances, concerts, dance events, kids activities and more will activate Sassoon Docks.

<em>Sea Never Dries</em> by Serge Attukwei Clottey, supported by Indorama Ventures
Sea Never Dries, Serge Attukwei Clottey, supported by Indorama VenturesImage: Sohil Belim; Courtesy of St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints

When asked about the programming Qureshi had this to say, "Between December 22, 2022, to February 22, 2023, we will take on a city scale endeavour which will include landmark murals, experiential exhibitions, immersive installations and public programming across key venues. In January we will be introducing our Sassoon Dock Art Project Part 2 in the Loksatta building. Followed by several other art projects in different locations like The Asian Paints Art House, Mahim Art District, etc. Every weekend, the Sassoon Art Project will feature an array of performances, talks, artist interactions, walking tours, workshops and more. So there is something to look forward to for everyone regardless of age group and interests. We have 4 art walks every week by Art and Wonderment, and a programming room specifically for workshops and kids activities."

<em>Choropleth</em>, Aashti Miller | St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints | Mumbai Urban Art Festival (MUAF). | STIRworld
Choropleth, Aashti MillerImage: Sohil Belim; Courtesy of St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints

Based on the location and exposure faced by the festival's artwork, the foundation has been working with the Mumbai Port Authority to realise the full potential of integrating art and the existing architecture of the compound. Rajiv Jalota, IAS, Chairman, Mumbai Port Authority (MbPA), had this to say in an official statement, “Mumbai Port Authority (MbPA) is pleased to be a part of the art exhibition at Sassoon Dock." He continued, "After the successful Sassoon Dock Art Project 1.0, we look forward to celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Mumbai Port on a grand artistic scale by collaborating with St+art India Foundation. The port has been a standing testimony of Mumbai's evolution and this art initiative is a step further in this direction.”

<em>Shrine for my oceanic mother</em>, Rithika Pandey | St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints | Mumbai Urban Art Festival (MUAF). | STIRworld
Shrine for my oceanic mother, Rithika PandeyImage: Courtesy of St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints

These sentiments are also reflected by the festival partners Asian Paints. Amit Syngle, Managing Director & CEO of Asian Paints Ltd. added, “Asian Paints and St+Art India Foundation have been driving this collective vision of democratising art for almost a decade now. We are truly proud of the six art districts and over 400+ murals that have been meaningfully created.”

Sajid Wajid Shaikh and Ronak Soni_Sohil Belim_1 | St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints | Mumbai Urban Art Festival (MUAF). | STIRworld
Pipes and Leaks (2022), Sajid Wajid Shaikh and Ronak SoniImage: Courtesy of St+art India Foundation and Asian Paints

On finally returning to this iconic location Qureshi told STIR, "The vibrancy, warmth, and values of the communities [at Sassoon Dock] truly won us over, which is why we had to return and showcase these diverse hyper-local aesthetics, stories and their heritage in the form of urban art, moreover, with globally renowned artists. The festival involves the whole community at Sassoon and helps us build the festival with us. It's their excitement that keeps us going too. We are grateful to have our partner Mumbai Port Trust Authority (MbPA) that has supported us through our endeavour. Our experience at Sassoon wouldn’t have been the same without their support."

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