Walk into one room and you’re confronted with 500kg of plastic fished out of the ocean by a Singaporean artist; walk into another, and there’s the breathtaking delicacy of pearls woven into fishing nets to spell out snatches of poetry.
The Sassoon Dock Arts Project is the most ambitious project undertaken by St+art India Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to take art to the masses and the streets.
Over the past two years, the foundation has painted a Gandhi mural on the Churchgate station, a giant dragon mounted on Jindal Mansion, and undertaken similar art projects in Mahim.
“We take art to unexpected places… places where communities don’t typically interact with art directly, on their streets,” says Hanif Kureshi, co-founder and creative director of St+art India.
For the Sassoon Dock project, a team of 27 artists, including seven from overseas — one each from Austria, Singapore, Australia, France, Germany, Mexico and Spain — spent a month on site, turning the dilapidated three-storey Mumbai Port Trust office into a public art space.
It’s open to the public from November 11 through December 30.
Visitors can also expect exciting workshops by the artists, explaining their work; a zine fest; live music gigs and curated tours of the dock from Thursdays to Sundays. Entry to all events is free.
Most of the artists were picked on the basis of their existing street art work, says Kureshi.
They were invited to interact with the Koli community that uses the docks, and most of the works reflect those conversations.
For Sajid Wajid Sheikh, participating is doubly special — he was born and raised in Mumbai, and had never visited the docks.
His audiovisual participatory artwork is made up entirely from discarded scraps that he found on the streets of the city — bits of metal, plastic bottles, even staplers. “I wanted to represent the sheer volumes of stuff that we discard without a thought,” he says.
“Being born and brought up in Mumbai, I had never been here before. And it makes me happy that there’s now an incentive for locals to rediscover the charm of the docks.”