The Art Exchange Project

He has been a corporate honcho who gave up the life of a regular income for a life pointing towards the easel. She has been an artist who always wanted to break the boundaries of form and function. He is skilled in entrepreneurship, and she is skilled in drawing lucidity out of abstract lines. Together, they are poised at the horizon of defining what art could mean to you and me tomorrow. We met Mohit and Aarti, the founders of The Art Exchange Project—an avenue for artists and aspiring artists, a platform where there is a beautiful confluence of different strokes, palettes, shapes and forms—all leading to one conclusion; that art is omniscient and it can transcend all formats to bring true bliss to the creator and spectator alike. But, I am probably just getting carried away with what I have observed of this beautiful initiative. Let’s get the straight dope from the horse’s mouth about the prospects of this sable’s hair. (Get the pun?) So, here is an interview with Mohit and Aarti about the Art Exchange Project at their studio, incidentally, also where they live.

So guys, what was the genesis of The Art Exchange Project?

Aarti: Well, the Art Exchange Project was started with a vision of making a community of people who create as well as those who appreciate art. It is a family of sorts for artists and art lovers. Whatever be your canvas, if you are an artist or aspire to be one, the Art Exchange Project has been conceived with all our collective passion to foster an atmosphere of sharing art knowledge, to teach and to learn. The vision is to provide a space, both online and offline for people to come together and give birth to myriad art forms and ideas, sharing information about materials or techniques or skill sets for future collaborations.

What is unique about this project that sets it apart from other art consortia and workshops?

Aarti: The world still sees artists as a different breed of people, who operate within a certain mindspace. We want to create a forum that is poised at the cusp of the whimsical and the practical; a forum where craziness makes sense!

Mohit: To simplify it for you, we are striving to bring artists together and create a talent pool where multifaceted art forms evolve. We will create a holistic and radical approach to art that will leave a legacy for future artists. The meetups are free, and so is the exchange of rich knowledge that happens in these sessions. We want people to explore the fascinating world of art through free demonstrations and regular interaction.

As an artist, why should I attend this meetup?

Mohit: You get to meet other like-minded people. You are egged on to step out of your comfort zone to try new things; be it a new art medium or a style. You get to blend different styles, and explore possibilities of functional art; going beyond conventional art forms. You are encouraged to be mentored or be a mentor yourself. You experience the thrill of making art without any bounds.

What if I am a non-artist? What’s in it for me?

Aarti: We believe that in some way or the other, everyone is an artist. Hopefully, through your experience, you will start believing that nobody is a non-artist. You start to recognize the unexplored artist within you. You can be great contributor to artistic expression through different skills, such as sketching, sculpting, writing, music, dance, or even photography and film making. You get to open your mind and think out of the box. Who knows, being part of our adventures may stir your latent artistic instinct. And, of course, you meet some really cool people, get some crazy business ideas, and make some meaningful alliances.

Now for the inevitable question. Where is The Art Exchange Project headed?

Aarti: We see this evolving into one of the biggest art communities or artists and patrons of all art forms. We hope to create the biggest and the richest talent pool in the Indian subcontinent. With time, we’d like to take it beyond the national boundaries and have local communities in other countries. Basically, we want to make art a part of everyone’s lives! In fact, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

How can I be an active member of this project?

Aarti: Start by joining our Facebook group. You will start receiving notifications on our meetups. Attend a few meetups to reflect on the inspiration and direction that become your own takeaway from this exchange. You can also contribute through the online on our site. You could showcase your artwork, share your views through comments and questions, and interact with other members. You could volunteer to write for the blog, photograph events, or contribute in any other way you want. You could even help organize demos, help artists with event management or other forms of resourcing, you could help with shooting and editing videos, you could do feature write-ups, and artist interviews. You could share your experiences with others and spread the good word!

Hmmmm…..That is food for thought! We have attended a few meetups, seen the work, and have thoroughly enjoyed being part of it.

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For your own unique experience, we encourage you to check out their site and attend a few meetings. We assure you that you will be infected by the vibe!

The Best of Shahpur Jat — Crazy Sexy Inimitable Home Decor

Snuggled behind the grand Siri Fort Auditorium, lies the inconspicuous entrance to the fashionable ghetto that is Shahpur Jat. Already a pavilion for showcasing the creativity of more than a hundred designers, artists, and culinaire extraordinaire, Shahpur Jat seduces everyone with its hidden treasure houses of apparel, home decor, artwork, and food.

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It’s facade is humble and it flirts with your imagination as you walk into its small alleys where at almost every nook and corner, you will see a well lit window offering a rich panorama of “the labour of designer love.”

If you are not familiar with the place, you might have to walk around through its simple residential blocks with its humble residents and its share of common utilitarian stores till you suddenly come upon an eccentric or delicate entrance with an eclectic name, and that is your cue for stepping into designer haven.

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As you get lost (and possibly even wary) in the labyrinth of this upcoming designer village, at unsuspecting spots, you will chance upon artwork that spans the length and breadth of a wall of an apartment or an entire building, for that matter. This art mural will speak to you, and egg you on towards the next bend in the lane, hoping for a discovery, eager for a revelation.

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So, just when you feel that you are stepping away from this promised land of art and fashion potpourri, these landscape art exhibits scream out for your attention, reassuring you that perhaps the next undiscovered new pot of creativity is brewing clandestinely at the next turn, or behind the next block.

However, if you are not the meandering traveler and need to zero in on the kill, park your vehicle close to what is popularly known as “Fashion Street” and everything you are searching for in this locality is within a walking radius of 5 minutes.

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If you are looking for sartorial splendor, there are enough boutiques to test and tire your imagination.

And, of course there are outre dining options from a rooftop restaurant that sells Bihari cuisine (Potbelly) , to a roadside shack that offers a delectable variety of Tibetan dumpings (Momos Factory), from a cafe with a relaxed seating, a delectable European cuisine, and a neat selection of board games (Cafe Scribblers), to a cosy eatery tucked in a quaint corner with a decor inspired by music and a quirky menu that tops out at Rs. 200 (Music & Cafe), you do have different strokes for different folks.

Scenes from Potbelly

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And the friendly Music & Cafe eatery!

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But the three outstanding outlets in Shahpur Jat boast of esoteric options for home decor. Let us introduce them! Don’t simply take our word for it; the pictures will sell more than what our words will tell.

Siva Contemporary Rugs

This place offers rugs, settees, sofas, hanging lampshades, and a whole lot more. Whether you love a color riot or prefer an understated appearance, you are sure to find something that appeals to you.

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With an easy mix of utilitarian and aesthetic appeal, and a price that works out for most, it’s difficult to leave this store without picking out something that’s something you have always wanted for a corner of your room.

Wishing Chair

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Look through the display window, and you will get a glimpse of the wonderland that had Alice running after the mad hatter. This store has a myriad collection of gift items and showpieces from coasters made of juxtaposed keys welded together to a suitcase that makes you want to journey around the world in 80 days.

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At the back of the store is a cafe which offers a choice of pasta, salads and sandwiches, but more importantly, a fine selection of tea blends that offers you a rejuvenating experience as you savor it against the rich visual imagery of the store and its eccentric offerings.

The Second Floor

This is a behemoth compared to the other outlets and they have put all of the space to good use to tastefully create a unique ambiance that showcases the products in their own signature style.

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From card holders, to crockery, to furniture, to fabric, every product is “rightfully” placed in the right place to grab your attention.

Some more sights within Fashion Street

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As Shahpur Jat evolves to maturity, we are sure that there will be more of everything to impress both the casual and the serious shopper, but we believe these three places will always stand mighty though their character of serving and quality of offering!

All the best Shahpur Jat! Keep making us coming back for more!

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Hip Tripping at Connaught Place

Delhi is changing! Rapidly! In the context of the urban landscape, every facade, once looked upon as the next big thing, grimaces in the face of the subsequently next big thing. Every theme park is obscured by the next bigger and better theme park, every mall dwarfed by the next! However, a few structures stand the test of time. They stand apart for their nostalgic appeal to the old, their retro appeal for the new, and for their wholesome offering to all walks of life.

Connaught Place or CP, is the quintessential cynosure of Delhi both from the perspective of location as well as its uniqueness of design and character. Whoever you are, whatever it is you are looking for, and whatever money you are willing to pay for it, CP has something to offer you. Be it different varieties of food, apparel, entertainment, or handicrafts, CP has something to offer to every palette. It is a place that both my partner and I have frequented since our childhood—individually, with different people, and with each other—and the charm just grows. Here are a few glimpses of special stops at CP, which continue to add color to its plumage.

South Indian Street Food

South Indian street food at its best!

South Indian street food at its best!

This is possibly the safest destination for getting the cheapest South Indian food that is hygienic as well as delicious with a distinct signature taste. And it is usually surrounded by a big crowd and big cars, who repeatedly come to this place to taste its food with a flavor of its unique setting. There is no place to sit and eat, so either you stand, or perch yourself on your bike, or  sit inside your car… and you gobble… and then you gobble some more!

Street Shopping — The Flea Market with a Buzz

Whether you are an international traveler looking for some esoteric prints, fabric, incense, showpieces, or footwear, or whether you are the frugal Indian shopaholic aspiring to strike a steal deal over a bag or attire, the flea market boasts of the best design ripoffs at an astoundingly decent quality! Either way this place will showcase stuff that is bound to make heads turn. It is a cornucopia of diverse visual delights.

Quick Tip: The rule of thumb is to offer half the price asked for, grab the deal if the shopkeeper agrees or pretend to walk away nonchalantly as he calls you back for a final price. If that does not happen, and you really want that thing bad, try hiking the rate by 10% over your original offer. If he still does not relent, walk off towards the next shop that offers something similar and repeat the modus operandi.

The flea market that is always buzzing!

The flea market that is always buzzing!

Small Bookstore, Large Collection

Having the size and quite the design of a revolving door, this outlet boasts of an eclectic collection that some of the biggest bookstores in the neighborhood may be unable to compete with!! What’s more, the owner actually knows each book by name and does not have to sift through a section to know if that book is in stock.

He knows his books!

He knows his books!

Cold Coffee, Dumplings, and Other Snacks on the Move

While shopping through this flea market if you start feeling hungry, then just walk by the adjacent building that towers at the center of this market and treat yourself to the best takeaway cold coffee at a steal of a price with multiple flavors to boot. The sandwiches and the dumplings momos (because that’s what they’re called in Delhi) are a safe bet too. Oh, and at the turn of this building sidewalk is a fruit seller who sells stuff that’s “Nice on Girls”! (Whatever that means!)

Frappe anyone? Or are you game for the famous Indian mulberry? Or momos? Sandwiches? What's it gonna be today?

Frappe anyone? Or are you game for the famous Indian mulberry? Or momos? Sandwiches? What’s it gonna be today?

Bohemian Fusionwear

I think a lot of designer wear is just hype, but then sometimes it is just worth the price. Why? Because no other place in Delhi offers anything similar at whatever price! Boasting of soft worn cotton garments in bohemian designs, this store is a favorite of the Urban Hippies and we often end up buying more than our international traveler friends  we point out this shop to.

Quintessentially Urban Hippy delight!

Quintessentially Urban Hippy delight!

Roadside Tattoo Talent

If you like to throw caution to the wind and are always game for a tattoo after a couple of drinks, you could indulge your maverick ways by getting inked at 500 rupees per square inch at the roadside tattoo market! They do change needles and some of their designs are actually pretty neat! And if you don’t really wanna risk it with needles, opt for the traditional Indian mehndi. It is a slightly messy, but innocuous coat, which when washed off after  a couple of hours, leaves a surprisingly elegant design that will remain faithfully yours for almost a week!

At that price, it does not even pain!

At that price, it does not even pain!

Nomadic Culture Showcase — Indian Gypsy Art

This subway was once a haven for junkies who could get wasted right under the noses of cops, but now has turned into an avenue for lovers of rustic offerings. With quite a few inviting offerings at very competitive prices, it could be a gift paradise for those who want a taste of ethnic India at throwaway prices.

Rustic charms!

Rustic charms!

Filter Coffee Under a Banyan Tree

If you want to enjoy a cup of possibly one of the finest available filter coffee in an open courtyard, with bureaucratic oldies, journalists, or larger groups of families (basically the first meeting for an arranged marriage between the prospective groom’s and the bride’s family among much awkwardness), you will find the setting of this quiet place quite amusing and endearing! And if your date loves coffee, this is NOT a place to miss. You could try the delectable vegetable cutlets too, though you need to have a very Indian taste to savor that.

Totally dig that coffee!

Totally dig that coffee!

Your coffee can be customized to your taste! Just specify how much milk you want or do not want in your coffee!

Your coffee can be customized to your taste! Just specify how much milk you want or do not want in your coffee!

Authentic Silverware

At the corner of a block, next to a clandestinely located bookstore with tantalizing covers of the Kama Sutra featuring Caucasian models, is a store that sells the best silverware in Delhi. Why? Because (a) stuff bought from there 10 years ago has survived everyday wear; (b) their designs are simple, but as classy as it gets; and (c) the owner is an old, honest man who doesn’t believe in overcharging.

Sweet silver linings!

Sweet silver linings!

Chocolate Paan

Most westerners do not like paan, but we insist you try the chocolate paan that this guy serves with a generous dose of Hershey’s and a hint of mint! The other paans are good too, but are you that adventurous?

Think of it as herbal candy!

Think of it as herbal candy!

Used Books Collection

This inconspicuous bookstore that is quite often missed between a movie theater, a kebab joint street, and a pub has an unbelievable collection of second hand books. You will love it if you love the smell of old books and the thrill of a bargain discovery!

Second-hand books anyone? They do have quite a selection!

Second-hand books anyone? They do have quite a selection! But blink and you miss it!

Wall Art at a FabMart

Oh, and if you are on the lookout for fabric of all kinds, you can’t miss this wholesale market simply because of its outstanding facade! Maybe you won’t find what you are looking for, but dem wall paintings are daaaaammmn faaiiine! 🙂

Graffiti is the cornerstone of this urban landscape!

Graffiti is the cornerstone of this urban landscape!

Hip and happening!

Hip and happening!

The riding is on the wall! :)

The riding is on the wall! 🙂

At every corner of CP, you will find something worth noticing, be it wares being sold, a performer doing his thing, or simply a street snack waiting to be tasted!

Every corner is a surprise for the uninitiated!

Every corner is a surprise for the uninitiated!

There is a lot more than this to CP, and we shall keep sharing more as we keep hip tripping through the innermost lanes of this paradise that will never be lost! Amen to that!