Mumbai may be the economic powerhouse of the country but it has long held a reputation as centre of culture and art as well. True to this legacy, the city still has a thriving cultural life with plenty of art galleries and centers of performing arts. For those who find solace in more refined avenues of entertainment there are plenty of options if you dig deep enough. Beyond the malls, multiplexes, and amusement parks you will find some interesting venues for culture and cuppa in Mumbai. We bring you a list of ten such destinations that you should head to, to satiate your artistic sensibilities.
The National Center for Performing Arts (NCPA), located at land’s end in Nariman Point is a testament to the enduring artistic tradition of the city. Since its inception in 1969, NCPA has been the cultural hub of Mumbai, with its impressive theatres and auditoriums playing host to some of the best musical and dramatic performances that feature artists from across the world. In addition to the many theaters on its premises, the center is also home to an art gallery, library, and research center for those interested in the performing arts. You can even hobnob with theater personalities and musicians, while grabbing a quick bite or a coffee at the cafe.
The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) is tucked away next to the iconic Regal Cinema in Mumbai’s lively tourist area of Colaba. The gallery, which was opened to the public just two decades ago, hosts a variety of exhibitions that showcase collections from celebrated artists and sculptures. NGMA doesn’t just showcase Indian talent, but also has displays from renowned international artists, including a collection of Pablo Picasso's works. Aside from its exhibits, the institute also hosts lectures, recitals, and classical music performances at its auditorium.
Jehangir Art Gallery is inseparable from the art scene in the city and it is hard to imagine a time before its existence. Located right next door to the Chatrapati Shivaji Museum and Gateway of India, the gallery was only opened in 1952. Since then it has become an indelible part of the city’s rich heritage. The gallery is home to a dazzling art collection, featuring both Indian and international artists. It has also served as a platform for new talent, hosting frequent exhibitions that display the work of art students. You will even find artists displaying and selling their creations on the sidewalk outside, giving the place a Bohemian vibe.
Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum is truly a hidden gem, tucked away in the tranquil surroundings of the Jijamata Udyaan or Byculla Zoo. The museum was opened in 1872, but was largely forgotten by most of the city and suffered grave neglect in the post-independence era. Fortunately, it has been restored to its former glory with large-scale restoration work that began in 2007. Today, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum is regarded as one of the best museums in the country and has also won international awards for its efforts at conservation, preservation, and showcasing of cultural and artistic artifacts. The museum exhibits historic artifacts, handicrafts, paintings, sculpture, and performing arts. Visitors to the museum can even enjoy relaxing cup of coffee or browse through books and souvenirs that are available at the museum’s café and store.
Prithvi Theatre has long been a magnet for every artistic and creative spirit in the city. The café at the theater is just as famous as the theater itself, because of the crowd that it draws. You will find theater goers, actors, writers, and other creative minds engaged in lively discussions or simply enjoying a quiet cup of tea here. Prithvi Theatre was established in 1978 by Bollywood veteran Shashi Kapoor as a tribute to his father Prithviraj Kapoor. The theater has always worked to support independent artists and productions that would otherwise not enjoy mainstream support. This has ensured a thriving dramatics scene in the city, with great variety in terms of content. Not surprisingly, Prithvi Theatre is revered by veterans and aspiring dramatists alike, making it a must-visit on your list.
The Nehru Centre in Worli, is renowned not just for its planetarium, but also for its efforts at promoting science, education, and culture. The iconic building of the center houses a culture wing, an auditorium, art gallery, museum, and exhibition halls. The gallery promotes and displays creations from eminent artists and budding talent as well. In addition to paintings, exhibitions also include displays of sculptures, calligraphy, textile-painting, photography, and lots more. The culture wing also gives Mumbaiites an opportunity to enjoy a variety of cultural programs and events that include drama, dance, and music.
One of Mumbai’s most famous centers for performing arts and concerts, the Homi Bhaba Auditorium is a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), which is actually a public research institution. TIFR is one of the leading research centers in the country, committed to the pursuits of natural sciences, mathematics, and other scientific disciplines that have little connection to performing arts. Nevertheless, the institute has an impressive collection of modern art that includes works from M.F. Hussain and V.S. Gaitonde. The Homi Bhaba Auditorium, which routinely hosts lectures and scientific symposiums, also enriches the city’s cultural life as it often serves as the venue for plays and musical concerts.
Located just behind the sprawling Gandhi Market in Sion, the Sri Shanmukhananda Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Auditorium is another treasure in the city. The 60 year old auditorium is not as well-known to most Mumbaiites as the other venues on this list, but it is revered by enthusiasts of Indian classical music. Carnatic music performances are held here almost every week and it also plays host to bigger concerts, featuring notable musicians like percussionist Trilok Gurtu, veena player Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, among others. Although primarily used for Carnatic music performances, it also serves as a platform for artists in other genres of Indian classical music, as well as jazz and fusion.
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Gallery Maskara is one of the city’s latest additions, having been established just a decade ago. In this short period of time, the gallery has already been making waves in the art world with its unique vision that takes a more unconventional approach. The gallery, which was established by Abhay Maskara aspires to transcend labels by embracing and showcasing inter-disciplinary approaches to art. Housed in a spacious structure that was once a grain factory; the gallery exhibits a variety of installations without any constraints in terms of size and scale. Gallery Maskara has undoubtedly infused a new energy into the cultural life of the city.
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Established by Kekoo Gandhy and Khorshed Gandhy, back in 1963, this is one of India’s oldest commercial art galleries. Since its inception, the gallery was based out of the Jehangir Art Gallery, housed on its first floor, but it moved to a new property in 2007. With its new, even more spacious premises on Prescott Road, the gallery continues to promote and showcase art. It has contributed greatly to the emergence of India’s first wave of modern and contemporary art movements, having served as a platform for the likes of MF Husain, Tyeb Mehta, Nalini Malani, Atul Dodiya, and many others.
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If an evening of refinement and the company of artistic-minded individuals is what you want, head to one of these destinations in Mumbai and you will not be disappointed. If a visit to these galleries fills you with inspiration, sign up for a creative workshop with Cleartrip and hone your artistic skills.