In 2012, a small initiative, which began in Khirki Extension, transformed cluttered facades and dusty streets into a game. A game of shapes and colours, depicting both avant-garde and the dystopic, personal as well as the political, where tentacles bore through grey concrete, and silhouettes of cats jumped from one wall to another. Located opposite the swanky malls of south Delhi, this small settlement of Khirki raised its head, tentacles and arms, and created an appeal that was, until then, limited to settlers there. Art as an intervention on the streets before this was largely seen as isolated landmarks scattered across the city.
A year later, following up on the Khirki example, came the St+Art Festival, which has been bringing in a spate of similar interventions across the city. Organised by St+Art India Foundation helmed by Arjun Bahl, Akshat Nauriyal, Giulia Ambrogi, Hanif Kureshi, Pierre Guyot and Thanish Thomas among others, the festival, now a prominent feature in the Capital, has branched out to Mumbai as well. “The Khirki initiative was a very small one, but it was a great model. It was very organic and that was what we built up on. We roped in government institutions and cultural organisations and embassies,” says Nauriyal, one of the co-founders of the festival.
We employed the ethos of Swacch Bharat and gave it a contemporary twist, to build a sense of community pride and consciousness,” he says. The team worked closely with the Central Public Works Department. French artist Chifumi, for instance, brings to one of its walls his interpretation of the Indian hand gesture padma mudra, mixing it with the Khmer pattern from Cambodia.
The second project is the “WIP (Work in Progress): The Street Art Show”. It is in collaboration with the Container Corporation of India, and shifts the public gaze to unknown or lesser known spaces in the city. Here, 25 artists will work for two months on the 55-acres of the Inland Container Depot in Tughlakabad, where around 2,000 containers are handled every day by over 10,000 employees. This busy confines will be converted into a walk-through space for installations created with 100 shipping containers and over 1,000 litres of paint.
Some of the usual suspects at the festival include Indian artists such as Anpu Varkey, Amitabh Kumar, Guesswho, Daku and Shilo Shiv Suleman, among others. Foreign participants include Agostino Iacurci from Italy and Borondo from Spain. Most of the work is already visible on the streets, while some are still in progress. While Suiko from Japan has employed vibrant colour schemes to create Chinese character designs on a wall at Lodhi Colony, Thai artist Rukkit created his first-ever mural in India, that of a vibrant eagle at Connaught Place’s outer circle. The festival will further be supplemented by screenings, talks, educational and immersive workshops, curated walks, performances and collaborations.