Lakeeren-The Contemporary Art Gallery, one of the first contemporary art galleries to be established in the western suburbs (1995-2003) of Mumbai, India, was conceived with a specific vision. Lakeeren, which in Urdu or Hindi means “lines,” was adopted as a name symbolizing the luminal, threshold or the possibility of crossings that can be traversed through art. Hence, Lakeeren’s very essence translated itself into a specific mission from the very beginning, almost in anticipation of its unique role and vision that ensure it a place in the history of Indian Contemporary art. Consequently, Lakeeren with its innovative concept provided a much-needed impetus for showcasing new, avant-garde contemporary art in India, especially since the mid-1990s posed a difficult moment for Indian contemporary art. It was a period when young and upcoming artists were grappling to establish a unique language that challenged mainstream art practices. This led them to engage with new materials and approaches as way to articulate their resistance.
During that period, installation art, photography and video and web-based art, which were established genres in the west, were also slowly percolating their way into artist’s studios. With no museum or established institutions that would risk exhibiting this work, Lakeeren was one of the first galleries that not only exhibited this new genre of art, which included the likes of handmade paper, black Japan ink, found-objects, ephemeral sculptural, performance art practices, but also allowed a space of discussion and articulation that finally lead to the legitimization of these new avant-garde art practices. This was further propelled by Lakeeren’s strong impetus of creating its own independent platforms of art forums/ organizing seminars, thereby generating a strong agency for art education. The gallery was also one of the first to curate and organize its own outdoor art festival, Jagruti that commemorated 50 years of Indian independence (1996), by promoting the crossing-over of various art forms, namely art, dance, film, and music, as well as presenting installation art to local audiences.
Lakeeren, in its eight years of existence, presented over 65 group and solo exhibitions including Cinemascope: An Artist’s Tribute to 100 years of Cinema, 1996, The Looking Glass Self: An Exhibition of Contemporary Self Portraits, 1997, The Tale of Six Cities: Glimpsing the Lives of Six Women Artists, Altered Altar: Revisiting the Sacred and the Profane, as well as solo works by Shilpa Gupta, Sharmila Samant, Monali Meher, Archana Hande, Surekha, Baiju Parthan, Jyotte Kolte, Mithu Sen, Amod Damle, Ganesh Gohain, Darshana Vora and Kausik Mukhopadhaya, to name a few.