In the midst of lush greenery, a 20-foot-high hawk rises, with towering buildings serving as a backdrop. This impressive sculpture is leaving quite an impression on the residents of Godrej’s Rivergreens, a 100-acre township project in Pune. Made from metal scrap and other reusable material, Hawk was commissioned to artists Leena and Gopal Namjoshi nearly two years ago. The sculpture was recently transported from Gurugram to be placed at the main entrance of this residential complex.
“The sculpture highlights the aspirations of young professionals who are residents of Rivergreens,” says Leena, co-founder of ArtWorkzz, a Gurugram-based art and design consultancy firm. For Hawk, the Namjoshis held “intense meetings” with structural engineers, landscape architects, conservationists and researchers. They measured the minutest of risks such as wind pressure, humidity levels, stability of material, and more. Namjoshi is witnessing an increase in real estate projects—both commercial and residential—with art as one of the primary selling points.
Another of Godrej’s projects, developed during the pandemic years, had artists such as Anish Kapoor, Subodh Gupta, Manish Nai and Neha Choksi, among others, come together to create a unique sculpture park for The Trees. This project is a 35-acre mixed-use plot with office space, residential towers, an upcoming five-star property, and retail outlets for a cross-section of people. “We wanted to create a vibrant public realm with a great street life, and art that would liven up the space, and make for meaningful experiences every day,” says Anubhav Gupta, chief officer for corporate social responsibility and sustainability, Godrej Properties.
Real estate’s tryst with art, though not new, is deepening, especially post-covid, with a new rush of buyers. Roughly 10 years ago, Subodh Gupta’s 22-foot-high tree installation, made of steel, was unveiled at the IREO Grand Arch township in Sector 58, Gurugram. Titled Dada Tree, the work was considered significant in bringing together art and real estate.
Globally, too, there are several examples of builders using art to drive sales and attract customers. It’s not unusual then for real estate developers, launching luxury condominiums, to host art exhibitions for their potential clients, or commission artists for works to be put in public areas such as lobbies, reception areas, corridors and gardens. A case in point: Miami’s Park Grove luxury condominiums from five years ago, for which the developers, Terra Group and the Related Group, spent over $1 million for The Poets in Bordeaux (Body Soul God, Country, Water Fire) by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.
Back home, Vivek Narain, founder of The Quorum—India’s first homegrown private members’ club—has commissioned artist Ankon Mitra to create a statement art installation for its third club in Hyderabad (the other two being in Mumbai and Gurugram) later this year. To be placed at the heart of the club, this unique piece is inspired by “murmuration” and will serve as a fitting metaphor for the intersection of great people and ideas. “A piece of artwork is a conversation starter. It also helps create an environment that nourishes the soul while there is chaos all around us,” says Narain. The Quorum’s tryst with art is not new. In 2018, the first year of its operations, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art curated the club’s art programme. Subsequently, Artery, an art asset advisory, and Art Alive Gallery, have been managing the curation and art programmes for The Quorum.
Sunaina Anand, founder of Art Alive, agrees that premium real estate players have now come to understand the importance of art. “We have curated for private residences in the past, but real estate developers are calling us a lot more to enquire about artworks that fit the design sensibility of their projects,” she says.
According to curator Uma Nair, realty developers—who are art patrons themselves—understand the value that a painting or a sculpture can bring to the environs. Last year, Nair, in collaboration with Masha Art Gallery, curated I Have a Dream, featuring the work of 18 contemporary women artists, in DLF’s Camellias, the luxury residential apartments, to help residents engage with art closely. Recently, Max Estates, the real estate arm of the Max Group, installed Laaga Chunari Mein Daag by Girjesh Kumar Singh at WorlkWell Suites, a newly-developed office complex in Okhla, Delhi. At Max Towers Noida, the brand’s other commercial space, one can see Holderstebolder by South African artist Angus Vanzyl Taylor, an impressive life-size figure in clay and stone.
According to Samir Saran, managing partner, India at Sotheby’s International Realty, both art and homes are status symbols. To bring the two closer, home buyers are given exclusive tours of art fairs and are invited to exhibitions and auctions.
Interestingly, the trend of art becoming an important amenity for real estate developers is not just seen in tier 1 cities but beyond as well. DN Homes, one of the leading developers in Odisha, is a case in point. It is developing the state’s first-ever theme-based township in Bhubaneswar. Called DN Fairytale, the residential complex focuses on kid-friendly zones and areas. Hence the company has commissioned Bhubaneswar-based artist Subash Pujahari to create 8-10 fibre glass animal figures for a sculptural garden to be located within the residential complex. Pujahari is ensuring that the works are placed strategically “to encourage storytelling and conversations”. Keeping the safety of the children in mind, none of the works have sharp edges.
There is also an increasing dialogue about sustainability in art projects being commissioned by real estate developers. For instance, in new Hyderabad, CBRE is developing campuses for Microsoft and Wipro, and is tying up with artists to create “involved, repurposed art”. All of the rubble and construction debris is being used to create benches, pavements and installation art. However, experts such as Priti Sanwalka—cofounder, I Am Gurgaon, a not-for-profit initiative to make Gurugram a better place to live in—wish that real estate developers were more involved in creating a dialogue between art and sustainability, especially when it comes to urban design and planning.
Perhaps the Namjoshis’ levitating Hawk is the start of sustainable art and real estate in India taking flight together.
Abhilasha Ojha is a Delhi-based writer.