Urban Art in India

Guest blogger Hena Kapadia reflects on street art in Delhi and Mumbai and its value

Banksy Maid, London, Courtesy BBC

Banksy Maid, London, Courtesy BBC

Mumbai: Of late, there have been several instances of urban art in India and internationally that have grabbed the attention of people in both the art world and everyday life. While graffiti has been a part of urban life for years now, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art  (LACMA) held the first major show of street art in the United States in 2011, creating a new and more formal context for street artists like US based Shepard Fairey and UK based Banksy. These artists have worked extensively both in the street as well as through a concentrated and decidedly commercial studio practices. Read more about this exhibit.

Street Sign, Daku, New Delhi, 2013

Street Sign, Daku, New Delhi, 2013

India has it’s own brand of urban art – which so far hasn’t found its way into museums, and exists exclusively on the streets. Some of it is created organically, appearing innocuously all around us. Organic street art like the work of Daku, seen above on street signs in Delhi and below, as graffiti in Mumbai, have a sense of the uncanny, making them subtly provoking. By almost becoming part of our urban surroundings, Daku’s works leave viewers pleasantly surprised and amused.

Graffiti, Daku, Lower Parel Mumbai, 2012, Courtesy NH7

Graffiti, Daku, Lower Parel Mumbai, 2012, Courtesy NH7

At other times, street art in India is created for specific festivals and public spaces as temporary installations on the street. Mumbai recently saw the return of the Kala Ghoda Festival, which serves as host to several installations on the street, some of which are constrained by the public nature of the festival. For example this work by Paresh Maity titled “Ants” that blends in with the surrounding mechanical environment in the city. What is lost at times is the sense of subtly and cheek that is evident in Daku’s work.

Paresh Maity, Ants, Scrap Metal, Mumbai 2013

Paresh Maity, Ants, Scrap Metal, Mumbai 2013

What is interesting is which we perceive to be as street art  and  how we value these types of works. How much are these installations or reproduced pictures of them worth? Is its value in the free access it allows individuals to art? How is value ultimately affected by the artist’s decisions to work more out of a studio than on the street? Would you buy this kind of work from an art fair?

Hena Kapadia is a Mumbai based art professional, who has a Master’s Degree in Modern and Contemporary Art World Practice.

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