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Cymroza@50: Another great reason to visit Mumbai

It’s not often that an art gallery can be termed a tourist attraction. But when one has not only stayed the course for half a century in Mumbai, but also defined the city’s cultural scene as the Cymroza Art Gallery has done down the decades, it is certainly a must-visit.

The gallery in Breach Candy, Mumbai
The gallery in Breach Candy, Mumbai. Image: Courtesy Cymroza Art Gallery.

Many of the top contemporary painters, sculptors, printmakers, craftsmen, ceramicists, photographers, and weavers of India have held shows here at some point in their careers if not at the apogee, as Cymroza prides itself on providing a platform for aspiring artists, as well as regularly holding lecture programmes, conducts workshops and discussions on various forms of art.

The golden jubilee of Mumbai’s Cymroza Art Gallery provides the backdrop for an ambitious set of exhibitions that celebrate its contribution to Mumbai’s art world as well as its founder, Pheroza Godrej’s life in art. Pheroza Godrej (née Shroff) founded Cymroza, in the South Mumbai’s Breach Candy, whilst still only in her twenties. The name is symbolic of how deeply personal this venture was for her – ‘Cy’ from her brother Cyrus; ‘m’ for her mother Mitha; ‘roz’ from her father Phiroze and ‘a’ for herself.

Cymroza, art, Mumbai
A story in sepia: The Shroff family (Phiroze, Pheroza, Cyrus, and Mitha) in front of a painting by B Prabha the year Cymroza Art Gallery opened in 1971.

Her endeavour was to take the snobbery out of the art world, which explained her choice of the gallery’s location away from the saturated Kala Ghoda art precinct. She had the vision to use the gallery as a multi-arts forum for youth culture and also to monetise creativity in a way that laid the foundation for the commercial galleries we see today. Over the next 50 years, the gallery would go on to host a range of seminal exhibitions while Godrej would become a leading figure in the arts ecosystem.

Now, she remains the focal point of the three exhibitions curated to celebrate Cymroza@50. Ongoing across three different city galleries: Cymroza, Pundole’s, and Chatterjee & Lal, they opened simultaneously on September 1. Thematically, the contents of each exhibition are designed to complement each other.

Art historian Pheroza Godrej, who founded Cymroza Art Gallery
Art historian Pheroza Godrej, who founded Cymroza Art Gallery on October 20, 1971 to encourage artists who were not established names to find their footing.

The Cymroza Chronicles will place rare works and archival ephemera on display at Cymroza until October 19, providing a fascinating insight into the gallery’s formative years and exhibition history as well as Godrej’s personal journey with curation.

Cymroza, art, Mumbai
Memories are made of this: Artists Manmohan Saral, Sunita Shreshtha, Latika Katt, Balbir Katt, and Laxman Shreshtha with Pheroza Godrej at the exhibition by the Katts at Cymroza Art Gallery in 1983.

At Pundole’s, art critic Ranjit Hoskote presents a major survey exhibition, ‘Mapping the Lost Spectrum’, incorporating highlights from the collection of Jamshyd and Pheroza Godrej. Catch it before it closes on September 14.

Cymroza, art, Mumbai
Lovers, from the Godrejs’ personal collection, at Pundole’s.

At Chatterjee & Lal, Nancy Adajania has curated ‘The Unpaved, Crusty, Earthy Road’, the first retrospective of the important fibre artist Nelly Sethna, a name championed by Godrej. On view until October 16.

Tapestry by fibre artist Nelly Sethna at Chatterjee & Lal.
Tapestry by fibre artist Nelly Sethna at Chatterjee & Lal.

In addition to the exhibitions, a series of talks and panel discussions are planned, with a focus on the history of the gallery scene in Mumbai, using Cymroza as an anchor. Together, the Cymroza@50 events present a landmark moment, and – through the history of both gallery and founder – contextualises the history of exhibition-making and collection formation in India over the last half-century.

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