Mumbai-based Gallery XXL’s first exhibition will showcase the best of street and graffiti artists

Mumbai’s newest gallery is hosting its debut exhibition in a century-old bungalow, with a 50-year timeline that highlights the works of 24 different artists

Mumbai-based Gallery XXL's first exhibition will showcase the best of street and graffiti artists

Housed in a 100-year-old bungalow, the exhibition takes inspiration from New York subways and post industrial cities and is the perfect setting with its chipped walls, exposed bricks and discoloured paint. Pics/Aishwarya Deodhar

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Mumbai-based Gallery XXL’s first exhibition will showcase the best of street and graffiti artists



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A frequently offered piece of advice is to “keep the best for the last” and that’s what Mumbai’s newest art spot, Gallery XXL has also done. But we prefer to start with the last artwork we saw during our walkthrough at the Cuffe Parade gallery. Amitabh Kumar, a Bengaluru-based artist and the curator of the show Outsiders, walks us through the 8,000 sq ft exhibition, where the last room on our tour has artworks by a Kerala-based art collective called the Trespassers. What we can’t help marvel at is the fact that all six members worked on the painting at the same time. 

Gallery XXL, a newly-launched gallery in Colaba, is housed in a 100-year-old bungalow called the Kalanjee Project. The gallery is set up by the founders of St+Art India Foundation, who have been working in the field of urban street art, and Joe Cyril, who is the director and CEO of Gallery XXL. The exhibition can be seen from a few metres away, with England-based Filthy Luker’s inflatable tentacles snaking their way out of the first floor window.

Gallery XXL is all about urban contemporary and post-graffiti art. Outsiders, which is their first exhibition, showcases the best of street and graffiti artists. The exhibition features 24 artists, such as Afzan Pirzade, Daku, Khatra, The London Police, Aiko, GuessWho, Vayeda Brothers, Studio Moebius, DO and many more. “We have put together a 50-year timeline of our artists, and where and how they fit,” says Kumar, as we enter the first room, which has a timeline pasted on the walls featuring all the 24 artists.

Curator and artist Amitabh Kumar with Joe Cyril, director and CEO of Gallery XXL in Colaba, in front of Anpu Varkey’s piece for which she has used the paint drip technique
Curator and artist Amitabh Kumar with Joe Cyril, director and CEO of Gallery XXL in Colaba, in front of Anpu Varkey’s piece for which she has used the paint drip technique

The timeline starts with US-based documentary photographer Martha Cooper, who was known for documenting New York and the subway art in the 70s. “With Martha,” says Kumar, “it allowed us to anchor deep and give the show a manner with the timeline that gives an autopsy of the show itself. What it does is that it allows you to access a specific part of the timeline and also gives you the feeling that you are part of the movement. The timeline was made to show the conceptualisation of the show and to add life to it,” he adds.

As we stroll through the gallery, we can see a stark contrast of how traditional galleries are supposed to be as compared to this one, with its exposed brick facades and the chipped walls and the discoloured paint. “This was the ideal location because of the history and architecture of the building. Each room has a unique character that informs the display of the artworks,” says Cyril. “It was inspired by the origins of the street art movement, which came out of post-industrial cities in Europe and subways in New York—places that one didn’t expect to be naturally inhabited by art,” he adds.

As we make our way to the first floor, we pass through graffitied walls by Khatra, a Baroda-based visual artist. On the first floor, we see different mediums such as a room dedicated to Studio Moebius, which is showcasing its audio-visual work. As we are seeing works by Anpu Varkey, Sydney-based Fintan Magee, Jasjyot Singh Hans and Paola Delfín, we hear music and follow the sound. We reach a dark room with eerily-calming notes, which we are told is part of Pune-based Afzan Pirzade’s work. 

“He wanted to use the gallery space to explore”, says Kumar. “He wants this sound at a particular volume, the room to smell a certain way and doesn’t want a curtain but a specific material to block the light. This allows him to create a sensory experience and space”.

While the gallery is based in Mumbai, they hope to have few of their initial shows as travelling ones. “We want to change that aspect of traditional galleries because for us, the movement and the art form are not tied to a singular location. One of our biggest goals is not only taking the  Indian urban art to different galleries in other countries but also bringing urban art from different countries here in India,” says Cyril.

Towards the end of the tour, we can’t help ask our gracious host; why the name XXL? “Just like the origin of the word ‘extra’, our effort through this gallery is to have a compelling new direction for the urban contemporary arts in the country,” he answers.

WHAT: The Outsiders
WHERE: Gallery XXL, The Kalanjee Project, Cuffe Parade
WHEN: Till May 21, 11 AM to 7 Pm (Closed on Mondays)
FOLLOW: @xxl.gallery; Instagram

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