Why the Save the Tiger exhibition is a must-see

“Three tigresses together!” quips Tina Ambani mischievously, as she poses with artist Sushma Jain, flanking a large canvas depicting a gorgeous tawny beast. The lovely Tina is there to support husband Anil’s niece, Ishita Salgaokar who, along with her industrialist father Raj Salgaokar, is responsible for some of the stunning prints lining the walls of the Tao Art Gallery. These and other art works are part of Save the Tiger, a group exhibition to celebrate International Tigers Day.

On till August 12, 2019, the show is an attempt to celebrate an undeniable emblem of power, strength, beauty and eternal aristocracy. Curated by Kalpana Shah and Fawad Tamkanat, the series of beautifully painted tiger masks, oils and sharp shots does lead the viewer to pray that the magnetic, dynamic, wild cat is always present amidst our thick forests, to be loved as a precious and irreplaceable member of the family.

Why the Save the Tiger exhibition is a must-see

Trying to be heard above the din of Mumbai’s swish set’s loud buzz, Kalpana Shah tells us, “It’s not the stripes—the zebra also has stripes—the magic lies in their eyes, their expressions. Tigers are content in their own world; in fact, they are wary of being attacked by humans, which provokes them to retaliate. We have encroached on their territory and we must learn to co-exist with all God’s creations.”

Co-curator Tamkanat believes that the tiger has always fascinated and inspired artists for centuries and continues to do so even today. “The arts and artefacts of different civilizations all over the world have been under the strong influence of this great animal for its beauty, vigour and vitality. It has been present in the spirituality of religious rituals and festivals too around the globe.”

Why the Save the Tiger exhibition is a must-see

Interestingly, in order to celebrate the tiger’s protection and steadily growing numbers, with fellow artists across the country, Tamkanat created a basic tiger mask design, which was then made by a well-known sculptor from Calcutta. “It was sent out to more than eighty talented artists from all over India to paint upon. As expected, the result of this was amazing, and this shows the fruit of that creativity inspired by the love for tigers.” The stunning variations on display are enlightening and engaging, created by the likes of Vivek Kumavat, Bandana Kumari and Binoy Varghese.

Besides the Salgaokars, the exhibition also includes photographs by Rajesh Khanna and Urvi Piramal, and paintings by Sushma Jain. One of Jain’s sumptuous canvasses, portraying two cubs in a playful mood, has evidently been sold already. The artist raves, “Tigers are so majestic and so beautiful. I love animals and I just want to hug them—yes, even tigers! We should protect and nurture them, increase their numbers. Nowadays I feel so sad at how often we read of tigers being killed. Through my art, I realise that tigers can speak through their eyes. Why kill them? Love them!” During the 70-80 hours Jain spends creating a single painting, she shares, “I feel like they are speaking to me. I want to feel their fur, touch them...they come alive!”

Why the Save the Tiger exhibition is a must-see

The wine and cheese event is chock-a-block with streams of celebrity guests. There’s the gracious matriarch clad in pink as always-Kokilaben Ambani. Ask her what she thinks about her granddaughter’s photographs and she smilingly demurs, “No, no, ask Ishita!” Ishita’s dad, the youthful, smiling but again extremely low profile Raj Salgaokar prefers to let his daughter enjoy the spotlight. Ishita’s friends, the vivid Masaba Gupta and dapper Nachiket Barve, designers both, are there to show their support, as is cupcake queen, Pooja Dhingra.

The evening also sees senior Ambani daughter-in-law Nita, accompanied by her own daughter-in-law Shloka Mehta, genteel actress of yesteryears’ Waheeda Rehman, business tycoon and art aficionado Harsh Goenka, and Ajay Piramal and Swati Piramal, in attendance.

The good news is that a part of the gallery proceeds will be donated to the Conservation Wildlands Trust. It will go towards reversing some of the wrong perpetuated on this magnificent species, and increasing sensitivity towards their protection. Nothing less will do!

Where: TAO Art Gallery, Worli, Mumbai.

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