Untitled by Nikhil Chopra
From a very early age, Saloni Doshi was intimately drawn towards collecting photographs. After working on curation for many years, the Mumbai-based art patron is all set to introduce her photographic collection to the public for the first time at Space118 Studios, Mumbai, from November 16 to December 30, 2023. Celebrating more than twenty years of impassioned art collecting, the exhibition The Right to Look is rooted in history and informed by the present—it questions our right to look and challenge narratives ofhow Indians see themselves. We ask Doshi five questions about her private collection, the art of photography and what photography means to her.
Tell us about the politics of the camera and the viewpoints that you explore in this exhibition.
From the very get-go the title of the show, The Right to Look, introduces us to ideas and notions that have defined artistic practices and photographic viewpoints in India. Rooted in historical contexts, the exhibition focuses on figurative lens-based practices that examine themes like gaze, performance and identity, everyday anxieties, and our larger lived experience. In some ways, it is the very story of our nation: how we as a people, as Indians, have seen ourselves; how we challenge narratives, and create our own space. These are artists and artworks that break away from conventional ways of seeing, introduc- ing newer perspectives and allowing us a more dynamic identity.
Umrao Singh Sher-Gil - Amrita with models for young girls, 1932 - Gelatin Silver Print With Toning - 8 x 10 Inches.jpg
What was the process of collecting these photographic works?
As a collector, I was keen to understand artistic practices, witnessing work happening in their studios, and I always found that a photograph very poignantly captured and encapsulated that. After studying under Jeroo Mulla, and immersing myself in films by directors like Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray, it was particularly exciting to see how a formally composed photograph dictated the various ways in which we see the world. Such an aesthetic (and of course historical) consideration drove me to col- lect such photographic works. Even today, after more than 20 years, my eye goes to such lens-based practices like that of Vivek Vilasini or Jyoti Bhatt, which encapsulated a moment in time for all the see, even after the moment has passed. Photography has for me provided a vocabulary in contemporary cultures to talk about the past, and that is something very exciting that I contemplate upon.
Rathawa House by Jyoti Bhatt, 2007, Inkjet on Archival Paper (Improvised from artist's photograph), 13 x 19 Inches, Edition 16 of 25
Tell us about your journey of becoming a collector and how you gained interest in this field.
Collecting for me was never something as mechanical as a job. It was and still is, always about what spoke to me. Being a first-generation (and female) collector in a family of business owners at the time meant that I had very little to draw from, when I started collecting in my twenties. I was merely twenty-three years old, but I always had my heart set on understanding and exploring the artistic practices that were emerging all around me, even though at times it became a challenging and frequently lonely undertaking. Around this time moreover, I started going to art fairs and biennales, continuously interacting with works of sculpture, photography, and even video art. This began my journey in earnest, engaging with the art world. I was also appreciative to come across mentors like Lekha Poddar, Rajiv Savara, and Kavita Singh who taught me how to keenly understand what went into the making of an artwork. My efforts at Space118 Studios are in some ways a culmination of this love that I’ve inculcated over two decades, of constantly engaging with works of art, and supporting artists in their journeys.
Untitled by Akshay Mahajan , 2014 - Digital Archival Print on Archival Paper - 23 x 29 Inches
This is an exclusive excerpt from our November EZ. To read the entire article and more such pieces, follow the link here.
Words Paridhi Badgotri