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The Other (Indian) Story: Retrospecting Lakeeren –The Contemporary Art Gallery 1995-2009 exhibited at the Modern Art Gallery, NCPA in March 2009 had a unique story to tell about Lakeeren Gallery that opened in 1995 in Vile Parle as one the fi rst galleries to exist outside the South Mumbai, Kala Ghoda art circuit. The gallery’s uniqueness stemmed from the fact that it challenged itself to present avant-garde art that emerged at that moment in time to a new audience outside the usual South Mumbai collector’s circle. The impact and infl uence of Lakeeren gallery and the artists would be lost in the innards of time if not revisited or articulated as a story that needed to be told. This is particularly relevant given the current moment of globalization experienced by Indian art that can be traced back to the liberalization of the Indian economy that began in the early 1990s, the time when Lakeeren opened as a gallery. This moment of pre-globalization of Indian art was a time when the explosion of new material and media was visible in the works of younger artists, in which signifi cant experimentation in photography, video, web based and installation art came to be viewed. The artists sought to employ unorthodox mediums such as rice paper, egg cartons, found objects, making Lakeeren one of the fi rst galleries to exhibit this new genre of art, kitsch ephemeral sculptural, performance art practices that were in the process of being defi ned. This newfound materiality also needed a new understanding towards art and art object itself, leading the gallery to adopt a mission statement to create a “social forum for the appreciation of art and art forms through knowledge based interaction by not only exhibiting art, but also providing a much needed intellectual platform.” Thereby Lakeeren could be viewed not only as a gallery, but a much needed discussion platform that debated and articulated these new avant-garde practices in an Indian context.

Although Lakeeren Gallery physically closed its doors in 2003, as I decided to peruse a PhD at Cornell University in History of Art (poised with a degree in Creative Curating from Goldsmiths College, London, 2001), the gallery opened an “intellectual” space that would undertake to expand its art historical and curatorial enterprise oeuvre to also include global art practices in its agenda. This expanded vision of the gallery could be interpreted in extending Lakeeren’s “lines” as connecting nodes, or in the words of philosophers Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, to be considered within “rhizomatic” frame of reference to establish new relationships outside predictable connections in a global art space. This allowed the dismantling of relationships that are questionable and that no longer work such as the genres of art and ghettoization of art as a national project. I further extend this rhizomatic way of thinking to allow cross-overs that intersect various aspects of my various practices as a gallerist, curator and art historian creating a unique “third space” that allows me to engage and push these areas to another level of interaction.              
With a view to realize these consideration it became critical for me to re-engage with the works, artists and the context that I had undertaken over the period of eight years (1995- 2003). Hence The Other (Indian) Story, was not only an endeavor to investigate the artists work alone, but also an effort to retrospect my own practice at three levels: as a gallery, second in the capacity of an intellectual inquiry, and fi nally as a curatorial endeavor that through the process of re-historicizing engage with the present moment. Finally The Other (Indian) Story could be viewed as a new curatorial endeavor that is Janus (double-faced) that on one hand articulates history by engaging the past while on in its fl ip side anticipates the future with the same vigor. This engagement with the past and present opens up a new space of questioning and self-critique in the present time with regards the artist and the gallery. Given the present moment of de-globalization and the economic downslide The Other (Indian) Story thereby can be considered as a refl ective moment for all to pause and review art and our individual practice in a renewed manner.

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