Founded in 2009, Experimenter, from day one, has been more than just a gallery space. Founders Priyanka and Prateek’s vision from the very beginning has been of “being a contemporary art organisation that truly reflects the time we are in.” Over the years, this art organisation has extended its thought to various programs and discourse, and along the way, built beautiful and inspiring relationships. They have presented relevant, provocative and evocative art, engaging viewers in important conversations and dialogues. Thirteen years later, they are all geared up to add another space to their repertoire, and this time around, they have stepped away from their home city of Kolkata to explore the vibrant cultural city of Mumbai.
What made you decide to make another city home for Experimenter?
If you had asked us a couple of years earlier, whether we would open spaces in other cities outside Kolkata, we would have most definitely answered in the negative. The decision of taking this step is entirely organic, yet exists somewhere in between the possible and imaginative and real at the same time. It is this way because our thoughts are firmly set in Kolkata, while our work has always extended us beyond the geography of our city. This step can be thought of as a physical manifestation of the organic way in which we operate from Kolkata.
To put it simply, although we are opening our new space, Experimenter Colaba, in Bombay, we will always remain rooted in Kolkata, a city we call home and which will continue to be the crucible where our conceptual, ethical and philosophical ideologies are rooted. This stepping outward comes from our desire to offer more possibilities to our artists, to engage with a city that is characterful, energetic and dynamic, and importantly a space that we are thrilled to work within and see it as a reflection of our other spaces in Kolkata.
What is your vision for the new space?
Experimenter Colaba will bring Experimenter’s full-fledged programming to the city, from artist’s solo and group exhibitions, to projects and collaborations outside the gallery, something that we consistently do at our two spaces and residency program in Kolkata. As with our other spaces, Experimenter Colaba will extend itself as an active space of learning and engaging with contemporary practices instead of being a passive space of viewing. In time, it will also bring to Bombay our Experimenter Learning Program Modules, our other discussion and dialogue-oriented programs, which hopefully will further our wider interest in presenting our multiform programming and engaging with the cultural fabric of the city.
Once Experimenter Colaba opens you will have three different addresses – what do each of these spaces represent?
Each of our spaces will have its own exhibitions and collateral programs, but converge with our overall vision of being a contemporary art organisation that truly reflects the time we are in. The exhibitions are all, very deeply, enmeshed with each other and if you look at our exhibitions over the years, one can find a certain form of continuity of thought. Also, for us, architecture plays an important role in exhibition-making. All three locations are housed in spaces that have been built over a century ago, and, in a way, the characteristics of these spaces bind them together. We will continue to focus on what we have learnt over the years and pour that collective knowledge into our work as we attempt to bring to the city exhibitions and practices of artists that maybe unfamiliar, yet crucial to show, political and fraught with questions that might be uncomfortable, and hopefully challenge viewers to push the boundaries of how we define our world.
Over the years, other than showcasing brilliant art, you have made beautiful friendships. As gallerists, how important is it to connect not only with the art, but also, with the artist?
Friendships are at the core of our program. Our artists are our family, and our responsibility is primarily towards supporting and enabling their practices. Artists will therefore always be at the center of our friendships and relationships. Moreover, to be true representatives of our artists’ voices, we have built relationships over time that are able to capture the kaleidoscopic spectrum of their vision, while always keep their interest in mind first. Our friendships are also formed by the incredible passion and motivation of the Experimenter team we have built over the years. What we do is simply not the vision of the two of us, but is a singular vision, which is an amalgamation of the collaborative thinking that the team does together. We are very fortunate to have a team that has a shared ethical and philosophical point of view. We are also very dear friends with our colleagues who run incredible programs in Bombay and whose advice and sup- port we have continued to have throughout our journey. The thread of deep friendships runs through all of these relationships.
Experimenter is more than a gallery – you have a learning program, a curators hub, a publishing wing, podcast, a fund, a residency and I am sure more. Where do you go from here? What do you dream, wish and visualise for this very personal and professional space, thought, and initiative?
Often, we think of how intertwined are our personal and professional lives. We are possibly one of the last preserves of an industry where one can channelise one’s personal preferences to reflect in one’s professional world. We work with our artists, who are first friends and inspirations. We place work with visionary collectors and institutions from whom we learn all the time. We also build a team that lives the ideology that we started out with and has stood the test of time so far, and hopefully, will continue to do so in the time to come. In many ways, for us, the idea of Experimenter is a distillation of all these things — personal, professional, organisational. We want to be able to offer a mirror to society, to pursue what we set out to do with fearlessness, to be a sensitive and reflective organisation that cares for dialogue and reason, celebrates plurality and differences, and most importantly, to be a true receptacle for the most exciting contemporary visual art practices of our time.
Priyaka and Prateek Raja