Sassoon Dock Art Project

Sassoon Dock


Located in and centered around the 144-year-old site of Mumbai’s Sassoon Docks, St+art organised one of its more ambitious projects till date - the Sassoon Dock Art Project. With the dock as its main protagonist, 33 national and international artists have been invited to contribute with their works to an experiential exhibition that was open to the public for 35 days.


Constructed in 1875, Sassoon Docks is one of the oldest docks in Mumbai. One out of the handful remaining docks that are open to the public, Sassoon is also one of largest fish markets in the city. Despite its immense significance in the city’s landscape, most Mumbaikers had never set foot inside the area. The exhibition sought to reintroduce it to its city in a novel manner. Nestled at the tip of Colaba, the dock was transformed into an contemporary art exhibition that aimed at mapping one of the fundamental facets of Mumbai and unlock the cultural and historical significance of this area.

Sassoon Recce Pranav Gohil 50

The exhibition hosted artists to create installations, audio-visual experiences, murals, screenings, and curated tours that were site-specific. Inspiration was derived from local stories, cultures, and histories. Materials available in abundance at the site - fishnets, the smell and sight of fish, and colour amongst other things, were then used for the execution of artworks, most of which featured the dock prominently.

Before entering the main venue of the exhibition, visitors were greeted with the sight of more than 150 larger-than-life-size black and white portraits, pasted on the façade of the main building. The monochrome photo blowups of portraits featured the dock’s resident Koli, Banjara, and Hindu Maratha fishing communities. The project was St+art’s contribution to iconic French photographer and artist JR’s global participatory ‘Inside Out' project.

The global Inside Out project celebrates identity and amplifies untold stories with the means of large-scale paste-up of monochrome portraits. The project at Sassoon Docks employed the same means to bring to the forefront important stories of the original settlers of Mumbai - its fishermen communities. It strived to celebrate the lives, identities, and contributions of the diverse fishermen communities of Sassoon Docks.

JR - Inside Out Project. Inside Out is a global participatory project started by worldwide recognized French artist JR in 2011. It celebrates identity and amplifies untold stories with the means of larger scale paste up of monochrome portraits. St+art India is pleased to present its contribution to this global movement through portrait blowups that celebrate the vibrant and diverse fishermen communities of Sassoon Dock. They are the settlers and therefore the identity of the city of Mumbai which is progressively disappearing under the pressure of the development of the city. Over two weeks, Akshat Nauriyal assisted by Pranav Gohil and Ravi Patel gathered more than 300 people from the Sassoon Dock community initiating a participatory happening to take the emblematic portraits. These photo blowups inaugurate this essential curation by visually and contextually presenting the unseen faces of Sassoon Dock by finally appearing on the spaces they inhabit.
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Avinash & Pragyesh- Untitled. Indian artists, Avinash and Pragyesh mural for the #sassoondockartproject is one of the first murals you get to see as you walk into the dock yard. Their mural is themed around the dream of a young boy, who hopes to own a boat someday. He sees this boat as the end of the problems for him and his family, and waits for his happily ever after. However, translating this dream into reality, is quite challenging. The artists use vivid colours and elements to give the mural a surrealistic and fantastical nature.
Fearless Reveals 1 Pranav Gohil
Fearless Collective

Upon entering the location, the visitor first came face-to-face with designer and visual artist Hanif Kureshi’s ‘The Idea of Smell’ he created a walk-through of sensations that could only be thought of and not felt. Playing with the idea of smell and memory, the artist established a direct connection between those concepts while inviting the viewer to immerse themselves in a path of feelings through the idea of smell. What was in front of the viewer were hundreds of words floating in the room, almost freely but not completely. By bending perception and the idea of senses, the artist triggered a larger understanding of the intersection of language with thought, of how smell can only be first recounted with memory rather than a direct recollection of its sensory experience

For the installation, locally-sourced nylon fishnets were suspended from the ceiling and were then woven with words and phrases such as ‘train’, ‘mom’s cooking, ‘blanket on a cold winter’s night’ and ‘engine oil’ among others.

Hanif Kureshi- The Idea of Smell. Hanif Kureshi is a contemporary visual artist from New Delhi. Working with local materials which characterize Sassoon Dock, Kureshi opens the exhibition by creating a walkthrough of sensations that can only be thought of and not felt. Playing with the idea of smell and memory, the artist establishes a direct connection between those concepts while inviting the viewer to immerse themselves in a path of feelings through the idea of smell. What is in front of the viewer are hundreds of words floating in the room, almost freely but not completely. By bending perception and the idea of senses, the artist hopes to trigger a larger understanding of the intersection of language with thought, of how smell can only be first recounted with memory rather than a direct recollection of its sensory experience.
Clemens Behr-Sassoon Dock Painting. Clemens Behr is a multimedia artist, who began experimenting with scrap material 10 years ago to make three dimensional collages that revive context through site specific materials. “I like using locally sourced materials, that are mostly from construction sites and can be recycled through carpentry”, explains the artist. Ever since, he has created installations that not only shape themselves according to the infrastructure of the space he works in but also its cultural ecosystem. The artist’s project at Sassoon Dock is no different. By using fabrics and other key elements from the city’s nooks, Behr weaves into artworks that are a reflection of his nuanced aesthetic. Within the warehouse, the artist creates the effect of Mumbai’s paradoxical skyline. While on the outside, he puts together a facade that is an amalgamation of constructed and deconstructed structures.

I like using locally sourced materials, that are mostly from construction sites and can be recycled through carpentry,

- Clemens Behr, artist

Crucial to the lifeline of the economy at Sassoon Docks in Mumbai’s sea. The exhibition also hosted artworks that engaged with the burgeoning problem of plastic dumping in and around the sea.

Tan Zi Xi- Plastic Ocean. Singaporean artist, Tan Zi Xi, branched away from illustration design to creating large scale installations when she was given an opportunity three years ago. As part of an exhibition with Singapore Art Museum, Zi Xi debuted her work, Plastic Ocean, for the first time last year. This immersive installation invited the viewer into a room that creates a floating effect of an ocean with the aid of tons of plastic. The artist refurnishes her installation at Sassoon Dock, by transforming it contextually and also by adding site-specific elements. “It was amazing to me how over here, I could easily buy and recycle the plastic from Dharavi, while it was very difficult to source it back in Singapore”, explains the artist. Working with about 400kgs of plastic found within the local geography, the artist opens a pathway for Mumbai to reconnect with the ignored plight hidden inside its coasts.
AltQ-The last fisherman of Mumbai. In the interest to develop an immersive experiential piece, Alt-Q Collective, uses audio-visual elements to critique the ongoing transformation of Sassoon Dock. The experimental piece creates and visualises the past and the possible future of the dock by dividing the space in two halves. The idea is to imagine the possible repercussions of the present scale of urbanisation and develop a conscious understanding of what could be its consequence in a space that has managed to stay locked out for now. The collective does not just try to visualise a space of dystopia but also understand the possible psychological effect on the fisherfolk, through storytelling in collaboration with Tandem Research.
AWP-Mumbynight . AWP is run by partners Marc Armengaud, Matthias Armengaud and Alessandra Cianchetta. he office works across scales and genres - from large strategic architectural plans to exhibitions and publications. Rather than making statements on the city of Mumbai, AWP choses an approach that maps the sensual and social geography through experimental interventions using sound and signs. They envision the city at night by creating a new frontier that imagines the territories after hours as urban forests where a re-enchantment is possible. What is the nature of the ground in a megacity that once was an archipel of 7 islands? Natural or artificial? How is the city living during the night ? Is it a day without light or is something else is happening? These are the questions that the installation hopes to trigger as the spectator is welcomed in.
Livil-Koli Women. Austria based, Olivier Hoelzl, is a multi-media artist who uses stencil as a medium to address the intricacies of the context he works in. His work here uses the site as a space to converge cultural narratives by splitting the room into two halves, addressing the complex historical junctures that made the city of Mumbai what it is today. He explains, “What I am really trying to do is to create a sense of ambivalence in the room.” The artist places his recreation of a photograph of Koli women worshiping the sea in the middle of the room, while what surrounds it are narratives that question the validity of urbanization and colonialism. These narratives put together are not only here to directly present the viewers into answers but also to dwell further into a deeper understanding of lost traditions and historical records.
Shilo Shiv Suleman-Overflow. Shilo’s practice includes illustration, installation and public art projects. By using surreal and poetic imageries, Shilo creates an installation with site specific materials, along with the ones that illustrate her creative disposition. With the means of organza and fibre-glass, the artist creates layers of panels that the viewer is invited to walk through. The embroidery work on these panels flow as delicately as the love poems written by the artist herself. Taking inspiration from the timeless space of Sassoon Dock and Hymns of Drowning written by G. Nammalvar, Shilo weaves in a mystical love affair between her and her lover onto her panels of intricacy creating an immersive experience through language and embroidery.
Lek & Asim Waqif-Scaff. After collaborating in 2012 at Palias de Tokyo in Paris, Asim Waqif and Lek come together to question the relationship between space and the subconscious through an experimental piece. By manipulating space through the usage of urban infrastructure, they relocate the spectator in challenging positions. In effect, this collaboration hopes to tap into the subconscious anxieties of the alternate population that is progressively being ghosted by this urban design scaling through the city's geography. Thus, the spectator is invited to float and revisit the city they experienced outside in the inside through obstacles created by site specific materials and design.
Swati Janu- Sassoon Studio. Sassoon Studio is a participatory media art project by community artist Swati Janu who set up a temporary recording studio at Sassoon Docks. She co-created short videos with the local communities at the Dock drawing from the vernacular media on their phones and the media production process in low-budget studios. These low tech media artworks were recorded, designed and edited through mobile phones with the participants who were invited to share their artistic talents and stories. The co-produced stories, music and dance videos represent the diverse cultural mix of the local Koli and Marathi communities, along with the migrant communities of Banjaras, Ghatis, Marathis, Tamilians and Biharis who have been working at the Docks for decades.

More than 1500 trawlers work at the docks, bringing in around 20 tons of fish every day. Over 150,000 people depend on the docks for their daily livelihood. Australian artist Guido Van Helten spent three days taking portrait shots of the fisherfolk present at the dock.

Guido Reveals Pranav Gohil 8
Guido Van Helten - Untitled. Guido Van Helten is an Australian artist who is known for his large scale monochromatic portraits. As part of Sassoon Dock Art Project, the artist spent three days taking portrait shots of the fisherfolk present at the dock. “I saw these women shelling prawns at the dock, they sat together and I talked with them briefly smiling, focused and strong. I chose to represent these three because of their close friendship.”, explains Guido. With his signature style, Guido profiles three portraits for the facades that overlook a primary space of the warehouse. Using the decadence to its advantage, Guido’s photorealistic murals seemingly weave out naturally through the walls, giving it a delicate and deep sentimental quality. The women portrayed are the ones he spent time with, peeling prawns together and trying to access the variety of stories and the life habits of the rich ecosystem of the docks. The piece will be a permanent trace and tribute to the dock even after the exhibition ends.
Sameer Kulavoor-Parfum Sassoon. Sameer Kulavoor, cutting-edge graphic designer and multimedia artist, has been running Bombay Duck, his independent publishing house, for four years now. Here, the artist experiments for the first time a large scale art installation by delivering an ironic dialogue on consumerism. “This exhibit is a joke on my own work because I started off working within advertising before I became an artist”, explains Sameer. Taking on from his background and the distinct smell of Sassoon Dock, the artist fabricates an experience of being inside a showroom that sells an imagined exclusive cologne from the dock. He plays with the colour palettes of the dock to create the brand of Parfum Sassoon that drives the view and the desire for the exclusive product.
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Arthat Collective-Dead Fish. Arthat Collective is a design studio based out of Mumbai incepted by young designers who practise animation, mural work, film and installations. Experienced in developing wide range of design, the collective conceptualises an installation that uses the primary imagery from Sassoon Dock, the fish, to connect it with the paradoxical nature of the city’s infrastructure. The collective uses the skeleton of a fish to develop a deeper narrative that looks at Mumbai’s buildings as an entity that encapsulates the flux between massive urban developments and lost traditions.
The Yok & Sheryo- Varuna Vessle. Working together for about seven years now, The Yok & Sheryo have created site specific murals and installations across the globe. The duo is known for its playful and spooky illustrative artworks in dialogue with the contexts they operate within. Here, with the support of Arthat Collective, The Yok & Sheryo have created an installation inspired by the fishing culture within Sassoon Dock, connecting it to the South Asian mythology. “ These boats help the fishermen with their day to day lives. We see parallel connection between the boats and the Makara - the creature that helps Lord Varuna navigate the ocean,” explains Sheryo. By sourcing local materials, the duo use a fishing boat as a foundation to create an art intervention that highlights how these are vehicles of greatness and livelihood.

These boats help the fishermen with their day-to-day lives. We see a parallel connection between the boats and the Makara- the creature that helps Varuna navigate the ocean

- Sheryo, artist
Sajid Wajid-The Ugly Truth. Sajid Wajid is a multidisciplinary artist who is known for experimenting with shape, color and design. After Sajid branched away from advertising to fine arts, he has consistently managed to develop an intrinsic creative disposition, which has made him one of the most popular emerging artists from India. This piece is not only an echo to Sajid’s unique style, but it also develops a deeper narrative about the cultural infrastructure of the city of Mumbai. By using garbage found in a landfill in Turbhe, the artist creates sculptures that intersect art with politics. “I wanted to show the people of Mumbai that when they throw their garbage it does not disappear just because it is no longer it is in front of their eyes.”, explains Sajid. The sculptures, composition of faces mounted on the walls, act as confrontational pieces that make the viewers to widen their peripheries and introspect further into the social commentary through audio-visual elements.

I wanted to show the people of Mumbai that when they throw their garbage it does not disappear just because it is no longer in front of their eyes

- Sajid Wajid, artist
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Tahska-Hooked. We’re all hooked. Spending most our waking lives looking down at a screen in complete submission. As we continue to indulge in our lifestyles, our wants turn into must haves and we become slaves to our desires and the notion of social currency. We crave for things which aren’t essential for sustenance, instead stretching ourselves thin for things we don’t need. In the sea of capitalism, we become the fish - a commodified version of a living being. The fish in essence, is truly the main protagonist at Sassoon Dock. It is the central source of the entire micro-economy of the area. They are the real heroes, even dying for the cause. Yet everyone here, from the sellers to the buyers only see them dead, never alive. This installation is symbolic of all the fishes sold at the dock but rarely seen alive. A celebration of their existence and values reinforced by the loops created by using photographs made by the artist at the Sassoon dock.
Pierre Guyot - Camera Obscura. The Camera Obscura room is a room-scaled optic installation that offers a new perspective on the vibrant landscape of Sassoon dock. The light enters the room through a pinhole, forming an eerie inverted picture of the outside on the walls of the room, making it functional only during the day time. Used by artists since centuries to unravel the complexity of reality and work on representation, the camera obscura is here an architectonic medium to trigger a new perception of this particular spot of the city. In the darkness, the visitor is invited to take some time to contemplate the landscape that is filling the room by turning his back to it, and connect this perception to his own inner-self.
Hanisha Thirumalasetty-Everyday Women. Hanisha is a graphic designer, who has been freelancing as an illustrator for three years now. Known for her women centric art projects, Hanisha experiments with an installation that thematically questions the social structures present within the dock. “While researching and studying the dock, I saw that the women would sit around the crates and do their work. The environment created by these crates made the women look subdued and boxed.” Using this imagery, the artist creates a similar environment that the viewer can walk into to reflect and understand the position of these women. On the contrary the strong sense of belonging and of womanhood is taken forward by the cozy shape of the installations and the illustrated elements that are suspended from the ceiling and pasted around the crates.
BigFat Minimalist -Cracks and Pocket. Taking minimalism to its maximum, Aniruddh Mehta has been the owner of the title of The Big Fat Minimalist for a while now. The artist never received a formal fine arts education, but managed to use geometry as a creative force in his work. Aniruddh visually recites the complexities of Mumbai by mixing photographs he has taken in Sassoon Dock with geometric shapes that echo the larger narrative of the piece. He explains, “This piece takes inspiration from multiple spaces of Mumbai. Especially the old and torn paste ups I have seen across the Western Railways.” Compressing all the complexities within one collage, with repetition and exaggeration, Anirudh covers the space alike that of any space in city. The usage of the elements are not a representation of the complexities but set a mood to what these complexities bring with them. For the artist, this mood brings out the beauty in the complex system that Mumbai is.
Furqan Jawed- While you were peeing. Furqan Jawed is a graphic designer, interested in the semantics of everyday visual media and creates work which celebrate the quotidian and mundane, while questioning accepted conventions, often in the form of exaggeration or satire. The artist’s interventions in the public washrooms are a conceptual triptych running across the three toilets on each floor (male, female and common/gender inclusive) and question the semantics of performing intimate acts in public space, and the politics of gender around such spaces. Stylising the washrooms with his distinctive collages and text, Furqan also plays with different objects, thematically exploring how architectural partitions knowingly/unknowingly define the notions of gender and sexuality, and also reflects on the obsession with beautifying toilets.
Akash Halankar-What goes up comes down. A lover of typography and illustration, Akash Halankar is a graphic and visual artist based out of Mumbai. The artist uses a challenging space of the staircase as a gateway of creating a body of work that comments of the complexities that arise from rapid urbanisation in the city of Mumbai. By using tints of neon, he uses the text, “What goes up, comes down”, as a juncture to comment on the paradoxes that have come up in the city’s socio-economic infrastructure after 1991’s economic reforms. The phrase acts as a starting point to initiate discussions on stark divide between rural and urban, rich and poor; all of which creates an uneven landscape that makes up contemporary Mumbai.
Curiot & Ramona-Shunya. Latin American duo, Curiot and Romina, have been working together for three months now and have found balance in their practice through developing a style that they describe as kitsch yet psychedelic. “We have managed to find a bridge between our practice that makes our work figurative and imaginative at the same time.”, explains Romina. Taking inspiration from the folklore of their home countries and weaving connections to the South Asian context, the duo create a museum that breaks the fine line between reality and imagination with the aid of local materials. The viewer is invited into a spectacle that bring to life elements that are magical yet fell actual within the space.
Faizan Khatri - Sassoon Dock Dog. The Act of Pissing is a question to negotiate this complex situation. Can you look away? Can you smell it? Can you be uncomfortable? Are you comfortable being uncomfortable? The Sassoon Dog works along with an undertone of the condition of animals caught up in the Contemporary Urban Scenario. Perceived through the lens of the many stray dogs which “We see when we want to, and don’t when we don’t”. The installation driven by this extreme simplicity – occurs at different areas of the venue. Spaces that are untouched, corners, behind things, at the edge of - in an analogy to the same spatial conditions that occur in our everyday experiences of the Urbanity of a typical cityscape. Dispersed throughout the venue, the intention is to make the viewer recall the memory of this act. As a player within a game, one is guided through a larger context laid out, which concludes with the unfolding of a (not so tiny) installation as an act of finality.
Mark Nabil Reveals Sassoon Dock St Art Mumbai 2017 Akash Shukla
Mark & Nabil- To all those who sailed and never came back. Lebanese stencil artists, @markghsoub and @stnab pay tribute to the fishermen who set out sailing and never returned home. One of the first murals that is found when you enter the dock yard, the artists use layered stencils to add depth and details to their mural. Their mural shows a faceless fisherman, framed inside a shield. Using contrasting colours, they also incorporate a ship, to further give context to their artwork.

Numerous other artists used narratives and sights offered by the space to inspire their artworks. While artists Poornima and Sadhna were inspired by the plenitude of colour in the area for their piece, graphic designer Sameer Kulavoor used the site’s characteristic smell to conceptualise his piece.

Poornima and Sadhna-Everyday Banjara. Contemporary artists Poornima Sukumar and Sadhna Prasad, take their inspiration from the drapes worn by the Koli and Banjara women for their piece at Sassoon Dock Art Project. Using their novel style from Aravani Art Project, the duo create a mural with similar sensibilities. After spending their early mornings in the chaotic fish market, the artists did their preliminary research in profiling women and their colorful sarees. Their mural further profiles these women with eloquent use of colors, while their sarees develop further by becoming delicate backdrops, which helps in creating an overall camouflaging effect.
Ella & Pitr-From Sassoon to the Moon. French artist duo, @ellapitr represent the people they meet on the streets in large canvases, through their murals. Known for highlighting neglected groups in their artwork, the duo represent the fishermen of Sassoon on two sides of the water tank at the dockyard, for the #sassoondockartproject @ellapitr also dotted the dockyard with more murals, including a fish, an anamorphic oil barrel and a signature rooftop mural. Speaking about their work and their time in Sassoon, the duo say “After visiting many countries and drawing some sleeping giants, we finally stopped at Sassoon Dock, where we painted some presents for the people of this area. But it was too short. We are now looking for coming again because we miss Colaba shrimps so much…”
spY- Untitled. Madrid based artist SpY painted a huge Swastika on the pillars of the water tank for the #sassoondockartproject. Known for appropriation of urban elements through transformation or replication, @spyurbanart 's red Swastika attempts to highlight the original meaning of the symbol. While the symbol has been used across the world by many cultures, it is rooted in the Sanskrit word, ‘Swati’ which translates to well being, Goodluck, success and prosperity.
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Do & Khatra-Life at Sassoon. Do and Khatra are an artist duo from India who have been working together as street artists since 2013. Known for their snazzy style and playful features, their illustrative murals are usually more contextual than they appear to be. A mural that wraps itself around the facades of the warehouse, their project at Sassoon Dock does not just beautify and transform the walls but also gives itself an expressive shape. An amalgamation of colors, the facade moves from figurative design and transforms itself into abstract shapes that are still contextual to the elements from the dock. The duo also use three dimensional found objects at the site, to add specificities on the mural. Moreover, taking on from their creative disposition, they use the columns to create a vantage point for their spectators, giving them a display of character and arrangement.
Do & Khatra- Instagram Wall

When we were approached with the idea of bringing #KindComments to life we wanted to create a piece of art which would leave people feeling happy, with a message of kindness which they can pass on to others in their lives and online. In a world filled so much chaos, conflict and hatred, messages of peace, equality and positivity are extremely important. Through our mural, we hope that we can encourage passer-bys to stop and reflect on messages of peace and kindness which we have tried to capture through the use of positive messages presented in a graffiti style.

- Do

The internet can be brutal place, hence any kind of #kindcomments/ messages - even if it changes someones mood or makes them feel better about themselves can go a long way in creating an accepting world. Through our mural we're trying to send a message to the world - of being kind and compassionate; so lets just be kind. Our artwork also has a heart symbol which is a universal symbol of love and that's the kind of the positive imagery and messaging that we wanted to bring out with our mural.

- Khatra
Darren Soh and Vibhor Yadav. A curation that brings two contemporary photographers from different countries together, this room is a temporary exhibit that explores the connection between the past and the present landscape of coastal towns. The viewer is invited into a space that dissects the two cities of Mumbai and Singapore, which come from similar roots, and which have grown into trade centres by experiencing a fast vertical growth in terms of cityscape and economy. Both Darren and Vibhor use voyeuristic lenses to explore a similar approach of documenting these metropolitan cities so to say, creating juxtapositions between social building blocks when viewed from a distant versus when inspected up close. The idea is also to have a striking juxtaposition of the present and future of those cities with the past that is in our case, seen through the windows of the room.
Ravi Patel. A graphic designer from India, Ravi Patel experiments with materials and anamorphosis in a deep dialogue with spaces both in an architectonic and contextual manner. By activating this transitional space, this intervention interconnects the spaces within it by playing with the perception of the spectator. Giving an ode to a fish head, the entire anamorphosis builds on the historicity of the warehouse, which was used by the fisherfolk for their activities but later got replaced by decadence.