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Tushar Joag

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1966, Mumbai
Lives and works in Mumbai

Tushar Joag is a public interventionist artist who politicises his art as well as attempts to aestheticise politics. A strain of satire underlies all his works as he deals with questions of urban development, displacement and citizenship. For him art is useless if it not political and sees an ethical duty of an artist as an activist.



Master of Fine Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India


Bachelor of Fine Arts, Sir J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai

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Politicising aesthetics and interventionist art

Tushar Joag claims to be an interventionist artist, as he sets out to politicise art and contribute to the struggle of activists like Medha Patkar and movements like Narmada Bachao Andolen through his art. Joag is a founding member of the Open Circle, an Artist’s initiative for study circles and activism. Political intervention is an element of his entire oeuvre and political ramifications and implications of his art cannot be ignored. He opines that there is no point in being bitter and angry and believes that even though he cannot effect change singularly he can always spark debates through the medium of art. He does something similar in his performance Right to Dissent. The artist during the length of this performance that lasted for 6 days stayed cocooned in a small enclosure made by weaving thread. For this time period Joag feverishly wrote “I will not lose faith in the Indian Democracy and Judiciary ” to effect a repeal of outdated draconian sedition laws bringing into focus public health activist Binayak Sen.

Tushar Joag, Right to dissent, 2011, self-incarcerated in a 5 x 3’ space for 6 days Clark House on Wodehouse Road, Colaba, Mumbai.

Attempt at aestheticising politics

Joag attempts to not only politicise aesthetics but also aestheticise politics. He does so by bringing art into the public sphere from the exclusivity of the gallery. His Looking for Flora, 2005, is a public installation set up in various crowded spaces in Mumbai. The famous fountain of the city has gone missing and he helps to find the spirit of the city as dismantles and re-builds this installation meanwhile engaging the audience in a discussion about the city. His Hypo Hydro Hyper Hirise, 2009-10, is a performance that comments on the greed and unfair distribution involved in modern urban development projects. A group of young men and boys form a 20 feet pyramid similar to the ones formed during religious festivities as Joag cleverly appropriates this action to refer to the inadequate planning and development that leads to the displacement of the lower classes. These leaning towers also resemble the crumbling architecture of the city of Mumbai as existing from Victorian times.

Tushar Joag, Looking for Flora, Intervention in the city of Mumbai, 2005.

Tushar Joag, Hypo Hydro Hyper Hirise, 2009-10.

Do-It-Yourself Art

According to Tushar Joag, art is responsible for maintaining cultural continuity as well as providing ruptures that bring a fresh outlook through its questioning of the present. His UNICELL-PWC which is a parody of multinational corporate houses and PWD highlight the various contemporary urban concerns through the use of satire. The aim being "to create works of art that seek to make interventions in the urban space, by designing and producing objects that while being functional and aesthetic bring into focus the various concerns of the immediate situation." It creates solutions which are most absurd in a Do-It-Yourself style. Unicell in an act of satire creates objects like Lamp Post Woman, the Street Sign Man, the Post Box Man and the Couch Man; vendor stalls that can be converted into everyday objects like a couch or a post box when the vendors see the municipal officers looking to confiscate goods or ask for bribes approaching. The Commuter Attachment System helps commuters to hang on to every available surface inside and outside the train which comes along with footholds and foldable tables to play cards on. These devices are impractical solutions to urban situations and lampoon the absurdity of the bureaucracy that despoils the urban fabric.

Tushar Joag, Street Vendors Mimetic Scheme, 2007, Shanghai Couch 2.

Tushar Joag, Mutants of the SVMS Lamp Post woman (Street Vendors Mimetic Scheme), 2007, mixed media on paper, 60 X 45".

Art for the disenfranchised in the city of Mumbai

With the ongoing urban development projects in Mumbai that reflect not only ineptness and bad planning but also an unsympathetic attitude towards the lower classes Joag lashes out with his interventionist attitude as he attempts to bring back empathy to the realm of social fabric lacking otherwise due to the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots. In the project “Venice of East”, he sends out mock eviction letters to 6000 upper middle class homes to create an awareness regarding the human emotions involved in this kind of displacement away from home. He argues that with project he touched 24000 people with such an awareness and debate.

Similar concerns can be seen in his Pests in which bulldozers with wings pollute the skyline; the atmosphere charged with violence.The project revolves around the idea of land in the city of Mumbai and its various declinations of territory, ground, soil, landscape, and heritage.

Tushar Joag, Venice of the East, 2009, mix media on arches paper, 48 x 72”.

Tushar Joag, Pests, 2009, digital print on archival paper, 5 x 5’.

Trope of journeying

The land grabbing by urban developers and displacement of the poor from building sites also allowed him to extend his concern for these processes of displacement in other contexts. In YamdrokTso he comments on the loot of water from the holy lake of Tibetans by the Chinese. His political involvement through a cultural realm continues in his exhibition “Riding Ricocente” which started off with a 53 day motorcycle ride from Mumbai to Shanghai via Sardar Sarovar and the Three Gorges Dam. The performative action was about the cultural ties between the two countries; exhibiton space as not the only way to culturally interact Joag took a motorcycle ride across to get to know the people and their habits similar in its action to Che Guevara and the reversal of journeys taken by Hiuen Tsang and Fa-Hien.

Tushar Joag, Hind Sight Faith, 2011, lenticular print, 10" x 10" (Each)

Tushar Joag, Rocinante, 2011, glassmarking pencils, acrylic paint, on paper pulp and paper, 12 x 20 x 13".