Mumbai's Gallery XXL Is Bringing Post-Graffiti And Urban Art To An Indian Audience

Gallery XXL
Gallery XXLGallery XXL

"Art belongs to the elite, graffiti to the streets."

Bufón Pinta, Bufón Chilean graffiti writer

This quote rings true when you examine the history of art. Art, especially high art, is accessible only to the cultural elite and has been primarily contained in white cube spaces. The vocabulary of art appreciation, let alone owning a piece of high art, is a privilege reserved for a handful in society — the intellectuals, patrons, and collectors. When graffiti was born in the United States in the late 1960s, it ushered in an era of vibrant counter-culture. While most deemed it as vandalism and still do, it is an artistic movement that moved beyond the consumerist and elitist nature of niche art circles and brought it to the forefront of the streets and its people.

The beauty of graffiti is that it cannot be contained. Though it began in the States, it has spread all over the world. All you need is a can of spray paint, an indelible marker, collective energy, and a fearless will to cover walls with your “signature” style. Artists blossomed all over the world using any surfaces in the city to make graffiti and take over urban spaces. However, art has always evolved in tandem with the changing times, which gave birth to the post-graffiti era in the form of Sidney Janis Gallery’s 1983 Post-Graffiti exhibition. The term post-graffiti is used to describe the work of artists whose backgrounds in graffiti form the foundation of their professional artistic practice.

With the ushering in of the post-graffiti movement, there has been a shift in its legal stature and by extension, the attention it receives. Even though graffiti is still treated as a peripheral art form or vandalism, post-graffiti cannot be deemed so because of its legal association. Also, post-graffiti has this innate ability to connect to more outsiders than traditional graffiti because it incorporates mainstream tactics, aesthetics, styles, and technique. There has been a lot of debate on whether post-graffiti is a bastard form of its original recalcitrance and rebellious spirit. However, there is no denying that post-graffiti aims to bring down the cultural barriers separating the graffiti subculture from the main culture of visual art. Also, post-graffiti does not consciously compromise the original rebellious nature of graffiti but rather uses different tools, styles, and modes of expression to communicate the individual artist’s message.

This image shows the distinction between graffiti and post-graffiti. The top 'PROPERTY IS THEFT' stencil is an example of Post-Graffiti, while the lower Neko tag is an example of traditional graffiti.
This image shows the distinction between graffiti and post-graffiti. The top 'PROPERTY IS THEFT' stencil is an example of Post-Graffiti, while the lower Neko tag is an example of traditional

The gallery in India at the front line of showcasing post-graffiti art and urban contemporary art movement is the XXL Gallery, Mumbai. The urban contemporary art movement has gained massive recognition over the last decade. The Indian art market is yet to be introduced to post-graffiti art, and it is XXL Gallery’s vision to spearhead the movement in the country by exhibiting the works of the global community of urban artists. One of their primary goals is to develop a new category of patronage amongst seasoned collectors, and most importantly young collectors who are well-versed in subcultures that have given rise to the aesthetic of the urban art movement.

The aim of the gallery is to respond to the global nature of the movement by producing site-specific traveling exhibitions in India and abroad. The art form that originated sprouted from the subways of New York, the location of each exhibition will be crucial for reflecting upon the socio-political dynamics of urban art and presenting it within the infrastructure of a gallery.

The gallery began with a survey exhibition titled OUTSIDERS on 13th April 2023, covering 50 years of the global street art movement through the practices of 24 artists who have contributed to the public image we see around us set against a backdrop of a heritage building in the art district of Colaba. Over the last weekend, there was a curated walk in the Sassoon Dock area where the viewers discovered previously unseen underground works from the recent Mumbai Urban Art Festival, leading up to Gallery XXL. There was also a graffiti and tagging hands-on workshop conducted in the gallery space by Khatra (@bykhatra), a renowned visual artist from Baroda. Every day at 6 pm the exhibition's curator, Amitabh Kumar has been taking the viewers on an exhibition walkthrough.

The old heritage builing where Gallery XXL is located
The old heritage builing where Gallery XXL is located


Venue:  The Kalanjee Project, Monica Bungalow, Colaba, Mumbai

On View Till: 21 May 2023

Timings: 11 am to 7 pm (Closed On Mondays)

Two artworks displayed at the exhibtion, OUTSIDERS
Two artworks displayed at the exhibtion, OUTSIDERSGallery XXL
Some of the artworks displayed at the exhibtion, 'OUTSIDERS'
Some of the artworks displayed at the exhibtion, 'OUTSIDERS'Gallery XXL

The exhibition invites you to a survey of Post-Graffiti and Urban Contemporary Art as you immerse yourself into a five-decade-long evolution of a movement that expands the idea of the arts and the artist to the urban and the everyday. The 24 artists whose works are being showcased are both primary contributors and witnesses to this creative ecosystem that is blurring conventional boundaries of artistic practice. Gallery XXL has kicked off its journey with OUTSIDERS, a watershed exhibition where street artists, graffiti artists, storytellers, pedagogues, multimedia artists, and other pluralities have come together to shed light onto the intriguing chronicle of the urban art movement.

You can find out more about Gallery XXL here.