Street art @ Reay Road

There I was travelling in a Harbour Line local train that hot April afternoon.

I had just woken up from a short nap when the train halted at Cotton Green station. I was still drowsy when the train crossed the beautiful drinking water fountain (that I always look out for whenever I travel by train on this route) just before Reay Road station. I noted that the water fountain was there, a little more decrepit than ever before, a little more lonelier and a… wait a minute… what was the flash of colour on the wall behind the fountain? It looked like graffiti, but I couldn’t be sure.The train had already crossed that patch and was slowing down for its Reay Road station halt.

A week later, I was back on the train travelling the same route at round the same time. This time I did not sleep. And this time I saw that my guess was right. There was not just one wall with graffiti, but what looked like a lot of them. My first impulse was to get off the train and explore the area immediately. But the deserted area, run-down buildings and a general sense of unease at going alone made me postpone the visit to another day and with company.

So a month later, I was back on the train and this time alighted at Reay Road station to wait for Rushikesh Kulkarni, a fellow blogger, the guy who runs Breakfree Journeys, and the guy who very readily agreed to be my bodyguard and explore the area with me. 🙂 A short walk from the station and I was looking at the first of the many works of art I saw that afternoon at Reay Road.

Peek-a-Boo !Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseJust outside the eastern side of Reay Road Station are godowns or warehouses of the Food Corporation of India, which are no longer in use. Many of them have been leased out to other companies, and the ones that have not been leased out have fallen into ruin or disrepair. And this is where the artwork can be found — both inside and outside the warehouse ruins. Presenting some of the more interesting ones here…

Step into my warehouse… Part 1 Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseThe new Trimurti?Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseThe superpower of 3 !Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseThis graffiti just crackles with energy…Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseStep into my warehouse…Part 2Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseThe 3 nerds !Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseI am a short-sighted aerosol can !Reay Road Graffiti 11Yellow and blue have never looked so cool together !Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseWe know just how to brighten up a dreary old wall…Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseFeeling Blue… Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseIt took us about an hour to cover the entire area and see the artwork which clearly appears to be the work of many artists. While some are signed, some are not and still others had indecipherable scrawls. The theme of the artwork ranged from the whimsical to the downright edgy. What was also evident was the presence of older artwork under the current ones. This led me to wonder as to just how long had street art been active in the Reay Road area.

When I had visited the drinking water fountain in February 2011, the place was not as run down as it is today and had no graffiti. When Rushikesh asked the few people we met about who had done the artwork, the answers ranged from “students” to “foreigners” to non-committal shrugs. As for when they were done, the answers ranged from “1 year back” to “1 month back” to, you guessed it, non-committal shrugs!

Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouseIf one goes by the popular understanding of street art as an unsanctioned form of art in non-traditional and public spaces, the ones at Reay Road would be perfect examples. I’m only surprised at not having come across much about these works of art in the media, unlike the street art in Bandra, which have been very well documented.

I love seeing this side of my city and the unusual places that street art keeps popping up. The impermanence of this art makes finding them and viewing them all the more special and fascinating — if you notice carefully, some of them are already fading and peeling away. With the monsoons in Mumbai in full force, I wonder how many of these works of art will survive the season. Or maybe there will be new ones to see by the end of the year.

Either way, it is a happy thought 🙂

Update (as on 23/7/2-14 at 11.52 pm) : I came across this video on the Graffiti in India website, where different graffiti artists talk about the graffiti scene. The interesting thing is the setting for these is the Reay Road artwork. See it for yourself 🙂

More Street Art from Mumbai: The writing on the wall | Nagrana Lane’s secrets | Bollywood on the walls | A fantasy world at Chapel Road | The St+art invasion of Bandra and a curated walkStreet art @ Reay Road

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34 thoughts on “Street art @ Reay Road

  1. you know if you come to london you will see this street art on almost all the old walls and some of them are REALLY so very beautiful..

    beautiful lovely pictures mam thank you for sharing .. I dont mind such art on the old walls that are not being maintained but it hurts when they spoil good looking or old heritage buildings .. that is not right …


    1. Bikram, I hear you there. I lived in London for a year and that’s where my love for graffiti was born. I also agree with you on the point about selection the wall canvas – sometimes there is a very thin line between graffiti and vandalism. That’s also why it has such bad press.


  2. How do you spot all this? This is a wonderful talent. You should get into qualitative research! I love the trimurti the best! So much talent in art, and so few outlets!


    1. I really don’t know, Rajshri. Maybe because I love art so much? I can’t think of any other reason. The trimurti is indeed stunning, and is perhaps the best of the lot. In fact, as you may have already noticed, there is a pattern of 3 that in many of the artwork – the trimurti, the 3 nerds, the 3 superpowers, the 3 blue faces…

      Contrary to popular perception, Mumbai has a thriving art scene. The street art that you see in Mumbai is unique and to the best of my knowledge, only two other cities in India have some street art – Delhi and Pune. But Mumbai’s street art is, in my opinion, the best. Just yesterday, I saw a fresh set of art on a wall that was previously bare. I was in a rickshaw and couldn’t stop, but I will be going back. 🙂


        1. This is about a 100 metres from Reay Road Station where the FCI godowns are. I haven’t travelled this route for sometime now, but at one point they used to be visible from the train. Pplease check before you go.


  3. Mumbai is one of the most amazing cities. I’ve passed by this place but never got the chance to explore. Thank u for this one and I must visit next time I come back. That’s quite a number of talented artists:)


  4. Wonderful, sudha ! The glimpse I got through the train window certainly did not prepare me for such amazing detailed work!!! And this is truly graffiti, not made for any purpose or part of a program as in bandra !


    1. The glimpse from the train was all about flashes of colour that enticed and teased and drew me in for a visit. And I know that you will be going to visit, once the rains are over 🙂


  5. That’s an amazing thing you noticed! Thanks for sharing Sudha 🙂 I have heard of street art elsewhere, but here in India? Quite a surprise! Going by the quality of art, definitely not by ‘non committal’ shrugs, time for these committed artists to get their due 🙂


    1. Great to see you hear after such a long time, Raksha. 🙂

      I think in India, we have just about started acknowledging graffiti and other street art as ART; they have been around for quite a while. Mumbai has a thriving street art scene, and the ones in Delhi in Pune are growing. I have no idea about other cities of India.


  6. You saw this when you woke from a nap? I am amazed at your powers of observation? Me? I had lived in an area where there was a large post box on the other side of the road which I passed every day on my way to school and told my father that there was no post box in the area when he asked me to post a letter once! Do you wonder why I admire you so much?


    1. Correction: I saw flashes of colours on what would usually have been a dusty and colourless landscape. That prompted me to have a look and visit it and then write about it.

      I think we all have selective things that we notice. A friend complains that I never notice the cars she changes ever 6 months. And I’m guilty of that as a car is a car is a car 😛


    1. Hello Ninachic. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Glad you liked the pics of street art in Mumbai. I would love to visit NYC and see the graffiti there. Everyone says they are the best !


  7. Oh my, this is the second blog post I have randomly chanced on about street art in India. Wonderful post. I just described to a fellow blogger today on how I wrote about the infamous street art/graffiti in Shoreditch last month, put a few of the photographs up on Instagram and had the artist get in touch with me later. Pretty nifty 😉


    1. Thank you, Aradhana. Shoreditch, and indeed London, graffiti is pretty awesome. In fact that’s what got me interested in street art in the first place.

      In India, street art is slowly coming into its own. Let’s see how the next few years pan out 😉


  8. Wonderful. Art at the unlikeliest places. Wish the card playing commuters on that route would glance out the window to see what they have missed all these months. Mumbai (Bombay, Bambai, or whatever will never cease to surprise)


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