Like many businesses and stores that had to fold or relocate in the face of no rental concession during the lockdown, Nature Morte gallery met the same fate. Call it a blessing in disguise, the space now has two new addresses. Earlier located at Neeti Bagh for 17 years, the new locations in Vasant Vihar (next to Embassy of Zambia) and Dhan Mill Compound (previous office space of Motherland magazine) will showcase experimental and conceptual works that the gallery is known for.
While the 4,000 sqft area at the Dhan Mill Compound will showcase more installation works, the 700 sqft Vasant Vihar area will be allotted for smaller shows, and its expansive basement will serve as a storage of artworks. “What we paid for the Neeti Bagh gallery, we are now paying for both the spaces, jointly,” says Peter Nagy, Co-director, Nature Morte, while giving me a tour of the location at Dhan Mill.
“There are four rooms on the left. The first two are for exhibitions and the remaining two will be used as a reception and a sitting room for anyone who just wants to come and have a little discussion on our collected works. The wall on the left was entirely made from glass with black frames. We have left the glass on the top, and I will put smaller pictures on this wall and the opposite one…I can easily have three shows in this gallery,” explains Nagy, his hands move like a theatre director proud to show his stage that is being readied for the season’s first play.
Colours, red and green, were being applied to freshly whitewashed walls. The bubble wraps were laid out on the floor to catch the falling paint. The nooks and crannies were receiving the finishing touches.
While the Vasant Vihar location has recently opened its doors for the visitors, the Dhan Mill one is to launch today with The New Arabesque, a solo exhibition by Brooklyn-based artist from Iran, Kamrooz Aram, showing his nine new paintings, one sculpture, and a group of collages. “The framed collage work will go in the first room with primary colours red and green, which are used in the collage work. The sculpture will go in the next room that is 10ft in height. About 5ft of the top half will be painted in green, the colour of the sculpture….in this sense the room is good for the sculpture,” Nagy reasons.
In his opinion it is a good idea to open the gallery with a lesser-known artist in the Indian subcontinent. “In Delhi, people don’t necessarily make an effort to see the artist they don’t recognise so I felt it is a good idea to open the gallery with his work. Aram’s show will be followed by Bharat Sikka, whose studio is nearby. Sikka, in fact, had been insisting us to check this space for a long time,” he says. Just outside the gallery is the upscale Café Dori.
“It will be nice to have people stepping out after lunch from the café stepping into the gallery to view the ongoing shows,” says Nagy, who soon hopes for a collaboration with the co-working space next door, The Common Room, for events like artists’ talks, film screenings, group discussions, among others.
Aparajita Jain, Co-director, Nature Morte, is pleased with the new locations. “I am sure the new spaces would see a lot more people than the Neeti Bagh one. Dhan Mill is in the centre of the city, with so many cafes and boutiques, and I think the footfalls will grow. Even the Vasant Vihar location is much more central. Very few people go to Central Delhi nowadays. The centre is based on the perimeter of a city and the perimeter is constantly changing,” she says.
Moving to not one but two locations in a pandemic was of course challenging, says Jain. “It was extremely tedious, but well worth it. We started the work in September, and got the labourers as many came back to the city, made sure everyone is protected during COVID-19. But people were not motivated to work in the pandemic, and the overall work went slower than expected,” she signs off.