Mumbai’s Victorian Gothic and Art Deco buildings win UNESCO status

Above, an Art Deco building in Mumbai. Mumbai’s Art Deco buildings are believed to be the world’s second largest collection after Miami. (AFP)
Updated 30 June 2018

Mumbai’s Victorian Gothic and Art Deco buildings win UNESCO status

MANAMA, Bahrain: Mumbai’s Art Deco buildings — believed to be the world’s second largest collection after Miami — were added on Saturday to UNESCO’s World Heritage List alongside the city’s better-known Victorian Gothic architecture.
A not-for-profit team of enthusiasts are in the process of documenting every single one but they estimate there may be more than 200 across India’s bustling financial capital.
The majority of them, built on reclaimed land between the early 1930s and early 1950s, are clustered together in the south of the coastal city where they stand in stark contrast to Victorian Gothic structures.
The two vastly different architectural traditions face off against each other across the popular Oval Maidan playing field, where enthusiastic young cricketers hone their skills.
On one side lie imposing and rather austere 19th century buildings housing the Bombay High Court and Mumbai University, with their spires and lancet windows.
On the other side stand sleeker buildings boasting curved corners, balconies, vertical lines and exotic motifs.
They were built by wealthy Indians who sent their architects to Europe to come up with modern designs different to those of their colonial rulers.
“Mumbai’s Deco buildings have always lived in the shadow of the Victorian Gothic structures built by the British,” Atul Kumar, the founder of Art Deco Mumbai, told AFP last year.
“But Art Deco is no less. It’s a colorful, vibrant, free, sophisticated style that represented the aspirations of a whole new class.
“India was under oppressive colonial rule and this was a very unique statement through architecture,” he added.
Mumbai’s Art Deco buildings house residential properties, commercial offices, hospitals and single screen movie theaters, including the popular Regal and Eros cinemas.
Their characteristics include elegant Deco fonts, marble floors and spiral staircases.
Most of the Art Deco buildings, including along the three-kilometer long palm-fringed Marine Drive promenade, are five stories high and painted in bright colors such as yellow, pink and blue.


‘Rome chose me,’ says Saudi artist on breakthrough Italian exhibition

Updated 24 October 2020

‘Rome chose me,’ says Saudi artist on breakthrough Italian exhibition

  • “Rome chose me and not vice versa. This idea wants to be a bridge between cultures,” Fahad told Arab News
  • He could not be in Rome for the opening of the exhibition, which is open to visitors until Dec. 10

ROME: Saudi artist Sultan bin Fahad has chosen Rhinoceros, an art gallery in Rome’s historic heart, for his first solo show.
The exhibition, “Frequency,” is staged in a 15th-century building recently renovated by French architect Jean Nouvel, and includes six installations featuring light, incense, shadows, music and sounds. Each piece describes a spiritual journey to modernity through many cultures, but one that is firmly linked to Islam.
“Rome chose me and not vice versa. This idea wants to be a bridge between cultures,” Fahad told Arab News from Los Angeles, where he lives. He could not be in Rome for the opening of the exhibition, which is open to visitors until Dec. 10.
“Each of my creations is specific. I wanted to tell a concept that was understood and expressed by the surrounding place,” the artist said. Over the years he collected precious antique pieces from Makkah and Madinah which he found all over the world, including some metallic pieces which had gone missing in 1979. He shot videos and recorded sounds, and used everything in the artwork that describes what he sees as the human journey toward a sacred temple of feelings.
The exhibition includes “Been There,” a piece with four ancient stones inscribed in Arabic interacting with a large plate of luminescent glass. Then comes “If Stone Could Speak,” with white marble works from Makkah. A video is projected showing men and women gathered in prayer.
Another work, “Possession,” shows an image of the hands of men and women trying to get closer to an elusive God, trying to touch the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
“I filmed those people and I was interested to understand why they were doing those gestures. They were trying to reach the divine. I thought it was moving,” Fahad said.
“The Verse of The Throne” contains a projection of a verse from the Holy Qur’an in front of six bowls, with water serving as an element of purification. Then comes “The White Noise,” represented in two immersive rooms, associated by the artist with the prayers of Makkah pilgrims.
Fahad said the exhibition looks to “involve all the senses to create a real experience, going beyond a visual experience for the visitor.”
In this sense, his works represent the place where anthropological concepts were born and became infused by Greek, Latin and Eastern cultures.
In fact, in the Arabian Gulf, humans once measured their existence through the loss of their relatives, creating a cult of the dead, which is reflected in Fahad’s work.
The artist is waiting to see what the future has in store. “I have no plans so far. I am so happy that I could produce something in 2020 due the the difficult time the entire world is experiencing. Let us hope that the situation will evolve for the better,” he said.

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