Gallery Odyssey in Mumbai was once bland and uninspiring; it has now been transformed into an open, versatile space by design firm Urban Studio.
Gallery Odyssey is a new entrant on Mumbai’s art scene. Owned by Divya and Sameer Gehlaut of India Bulls, the gallery aims to promote works of Indian and international artists. A partnership with London’s Halcyon Gallery has led to its first successful exhibition of selected pieces of noted sculptor Lorenzo Quinn.
In an interview to the Times of India, founder Divya Gehlaut said, “Odyssey would be like an art museum. The brand wants to bring art into the public sphere so that people are able to appreciate art in its different forms.”
The gallery is situated on the ground floor of a commercial building in Lower Parel, the now hip mill district of Mumbai. The original space was bland, anonymous and boring. A bank of windows on the rear façade brought in light but was not suitable to a gallery setting. The biggest obstacle, literally, were two rows of massive columns with large bases.
“The space was not suited to an art gallery, with those columns,” says Amisha Thanawala, of Urban Studio, the firm that designed the gallery. “The columns cut up the room visually. We needed to figure something around them and decided that they had to go.”
How do you make a solid row of columns vanish? Urban Studio invented a bank of “glowing, rotating and revolving cuboids to reconfigure spaces and situate art.”
The columns were screened off and wrapped with ‘boxes’ of plywood, which are mounted on hardware invented by Urban Studio.
The unique hardware allows the cuboids to rotate, slide and swivel, creating an impressive range of flexible formats suitable for all kinds of installations, large and small. Art of all sizes can be hung on the cuboids, which can also be brought together to create longer display spaces if required. The cuboids are lit from within and create an alternate light source to the track lighting.
Each light can be individually programmed, allowing the gallery to set a scene that is as theatrical or dramatic as the art demands. Audio-visual projectors make it easy to project sound or video as well. The design of the ceiling and floor is deliberate too. “We kept the pattern of the floor angular with an orthogonal configuration, keeping basic geometry in mind.”
“The space is very kinetic,” says Amisha. There is a sheer absence of unnecessary furniture or clutter. The gallery invites you to move around. After nine months of work, the gallery opened earlier this year. “The owners are art lovers and were very involved with the work. They were flexible and gave us a free hand for the design, which means that the designer takes the responsibility for creating a versatile space.”
“The project is intuitive and important for us,” explains Amisha. “We learned to transform a site and develop programmes for a project like this. There was no baggage from earlier projects that could have influenced us in this one. That’s what defining our own practice right now and this excites us. Every site is different. We have a carnal connection with the site, a primitive response and one which we are very happy to keep going.”
Amisha points out that they are constantly bombarded with media images of projects and products and it becomes very hard to distance from that and come up with something creative and original. “We work intuitively and go with our gut instinct.
We try to use the emotion a site arouses. In this case, we turned a drawback into an asset and created a well-oiled machine, one that is flexible, not based on current trends, but not too futuristic either. The design of the cuboids is unique and perhaps the only one of its kind in the world.”
The concept of Odyssey has been to create a space for art, something more than an art gallery. “There are not many multifunctional spaces in the city. The public is bereft of opportunities to engage in such spaces here. In Mumbai, the city is chaotic and there is complete apathy – there’s no space for projects to be in tandem with each other.”
Odyssey has made a splash with its first international exhibition. One can only wait and see what the gallery, with its unique and distinct identity, has in store. Watch this space, as they say; or even better, go visit!
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Urban Studio and Sebastian Zachariah