Pranav Gohil (2017). 

Mumbai city is no stranger to urban art forms. Right from the times of the Art Deco movement, the city has remained an ardent admirer of various mediums of expression. However, this is a piece on artistic urbanism in the city. December – 2022, after a long time, saw the return of the Mumbai Urban Art Festival at Sassoon Docks, followed closely by the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2023. Diverse mediums and locations allowed artists and architects enthusiasts from India and abroad to meet and engage with art. The festival has turned.

Art & Urbanism In Mumbai - Sheet1
Fearless Collective Sustence _©Sassoon Docks
metamorphosis _©Sameer Kulavoor & Sandeep Meher

Sohil Belim

heads with carefully curated programmes. Exhibitions, installations, workshops, talks, city walks, cultural shows, and flea markets at key public venues across the city attract lots of crowds and turns heads. 


Mumbai, by its urbanism, has inspired many local artists to encourage conversations around topics related to city planning, waste management, etc., through their works. These fairs and festivals are how the locals reclaim public spaces in the city. In a bustling and ever-growing city like Mumbai, recovering and uncovering spaces by inviting artists and people is pioneering and one of a kind. It helps restore not only the public space value but also the public value itself, the value of communion, and the value of the public in space. Eventually, through their very locations, these events showcase the city’s diversity of culture, heritage, architecture, and history. 

Today, claiming and reclaiming parts of one’s city is a way of expressing oneself. These art projects open the doors for the people from the city to immerse themselves in the potential of art. This year’s theme for the Sassoon Dock Projects was built around – Between the sea and the city, a reflective theme, paying an ode to the city’s Maritime history. The very theme of the projects calls for countless urban debates and issues. The artworks also pay attention to these crucial social subjects and develop thought-provoking, evocative showcases. Sajid Wajid Shaikh and Ronak Soni teamed up to give birth to ‘The Pipes & Leaks’. While the name is self-explanatory, the artwork, an audio-visual experience, is a comment on the city’s acute water shortage and drainage. These ideas stir conversations and invite people to connect with the city. These in their very nature, talk about urbanism. It makes one realise how intertwined the two sectors are. The location docks, with an olfactory symbolism of its own, are very removed from the city. It is a gentle reminder to the audience of its existence as a commodity enjoyed and relished by all, all over the city. While the docks may be away from one’s urban life, its product isn’t! In its subtle way, this is an important comment on Mumbai’s urban fabric and how the city is planned. 

We often look at how architects and urban planners respond to rapidly changing city spaces, especially in a city like Mumbai. Still, we very rarely do we question how artists and thinkers respond. Like architects, they do not function in a vacuum; the challenges and changes are also visibly evident in their works. In a surfeit of workshops and displays, when a jewellery maker is also an upcycle, you know that the people are involved in the challenges faced by the city in their little ways. Every year, the funds the Kala Ghoda Foundation raises through its cultural endeavours go into the city’s restoration efforts. This fully circles the whole concept of art and urbanism at the level of the city. 

Why art?

Having established the link between the two streams of the city, it is also important to note the trickle-down effect of urban design and planning on art. The exploration of scales, densities, crowds, and relationships as a part of urban life is a testament to this. The Kala Ghoda art Festival spotlights several avatars of the Maximum city. In its artistic way, it transcends the granular local phenomenon of suburbs by opening the city’s southern suburbs for people from far and wide. The artistic representation of people from all walks of life motivates them to commute from the western suburbs to the southern part of the city.  

As the city has evolved, works of art have mushroomed as symbolisms of multiplicity, complexity, scarcity, and density. It also became a means to communicate the large and long process of urban development and redevelopment to the layman. Art becomes a simpler and more powerful rendition of the plans, excels, and drawings urban planners look at. 

In an ever-expanding hyper city like Mumbai, urbanism is not limited to designers, planners, and architects; it reaches far beyond Poets, writers, researchers, and painters, all explore the relationship of the metropolis, and its people with the environment, water, and networks. These art festivals and fairs are just a reminder of forgotten narratives, people, and cultures. They reinstall the value of people and relationships in a successful urban setup.

Jain, P. (2023) Step Into The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival In Mumbai, Outlook India. Available at:

Pingle, P. (2022) All About Mumbai Urban Art Festival, St+art India 2022-2023, Outlook India. Available at:

Das, S. (2023) The Mumbai Urban Art Festival shows the city’s evolving relationship with the sea, Architecture Digest India. Available at: