2017 Team

The FOCUS 2017 Team from left to right: Sairandhri Raut, Agnes Vergne Sen Gupta, Nicola Antaki, Elise Foster Vander Elst, Prajna Desai, Alisha Sett and Matthieu Foss
Missing: Michael Cutts, Shabnam Lilani and Sophie Wright
Photo by Sneha Trivedi

About the Organisers:
FOCUS was founded in 2013 by Mumbai-based architect, Nicola Antaki, photography specialist Matthieu Foss and arts producer, Elise Foster Vander Elst who are supported by a dynamic, brilliant and hard-working team.
FOCUS is produced by Asia Art Projects, an art agency whose mission is to engage new audiences with art, develop art infrastructure in India, and encourage cross-cultural collaboration. 


The Founders: 

Director: Elise Foster Vander Elst has been working in the art world since 2003. An art historian by training (she has a B.A. in History of Art & Archaeology and an M.A. in Contemporary Art History from the Sorbonne University in Paris), she started her career in New York at P.S.1- MoMA Contemporary Art Center and later Art Review Magazine. After returning to the Sorbonne to complete her Masters she joined a parisian art gallery and was instrumental in the setting up of its Indian art department. In 2007, she moved to Bonhams, the British auction house and worked on the setting up their French company. In 2009 she moved to India to launch Gallery BMB in Mumbai, where she was the Associate Director. She moved on to found Asia Art Projects (AAP) and has been working on cross-cultural visual arts initiatives ever since.  AAP’s projects include co-curating the 2013 edition of the annual [En]counters public art initiative, publishing the Mumbai Art Map, and acting as visual arts consultant for the British Council. Elise is passionate about increasing audience engagement with contemporary art in the country, be it in traditional or unusual exhibition spaces. She is committed to building and developing sustainable arts infrastructure in India, and participates regularly in conferences and talks on the topic. Elise was awarded a Gold Stevie Award for Women In Business, acknowledging the significant impact of AAP’s work in the field of the arts in Asia in 2013, the Indian Women Achievers Award in 2015, and was shortlisted for the UK’s Women of the Future Award, also in 2015. 

Director: Matthieu Foss Matthieu Foss formerly lived in France, where he was part of the founding team of Paris Photo in 1997.​ ​He has worked with several French galleries, handling​ ​their photography department and ​contributed to initiatives in France​ and the​ United States​. Since moving to India in 2005,​ ​Matthieu has played an active part in India’s art world by setting a high standard for its budding photography market. Since​ ​2007, he has been the director of ​ ​Matthieu Foss Gallery and has collaborated with several local and international​ ​institutions to host ​significant ​exhibitions and art events. Over the years, he has ​participated in opening the Indian art market to​ ​photography, and ​in ​raising appreciation for photography as an art form.​ He is presently director of the photography program at école intuit.lab, Mumbai.

Design Director: Nicola Antaki, a British architect, is a Royal College of Art and UCL Bartlett School of Architecture graduate. She has worked on projects ranging from designing exhibitions at the Tate Britain (Rude Britannia 2010) and the National Gallery (Delaroche 2010) to designing schools and nurseries in London and the South East of England.  Nicola moved to Mumbai in 2011 and currently combines social and architectural research and practice, working on learning spaces for under-privileged children in the city whilst completing her PhD with the Development Planning Unit and the School of Architecture at the Bartlett, UCL.  Her passion for photography stems from her interest in Art and the City; a key driver for the FOCUS Festival is to bring more art and photography into the public city realm. In her spare time, Nicola also collaborates regularly with organisation Fresh & Local to design community urban farming projects that activate unused spaces across Mumbai.


The Curator, Call For Entries exhibition 2017 and of Before Now, Then: Picturing Loss in Contemporary Japanese Photography
Prajna Desai is an art historian who lives and works in Mumbai​. She has previously written on contemporary photography in conjunction with her involvement as a curator and writer of contemporary art. She is currently working on three research essays focused on photography, to potentially develop exhibitions based on this research. Experimental practices and narrative fictions in post-3.11 photography in Japan against the backdrop of anti-nuke protests and economic. The 1960s industrial photography of Sunil Janah, a left-leaning Indian photographer who previously made his reputation with searing photographs of the Bengal famine (1942-44). And the conceptual and formal nexus between photo magazines, wartime sensoga painting, and manga in Japan during WWII.

The Curator, An Attic Full of Film. An American Family in Khotachiwadi
Alisha Sett is a writer and curator based in Mumbai. She is a regular contributor to The Hindu. In 2014, she co-founded Kashmir Photo Collective, an archival project working towards creating an alternative visual history of the Kashmir Valley.

Sairandhri Raut, Programmes Coordinator
Sair has worked in public facing, research and curatorial roles at various art organisations and galleries including the David Roberts Art Foundation and the Natural History Museum in London and the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai. Sair holds a Master’s degree in History of Art from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her research interests include photography, film, performance and new media art, contemporary visual culture of a developing city and politics of contemporary art.

Michael Cutts, Education Curator
Since moving to India in 2012, Michael has been working with NGOs, governments, museums and schools using his background in learning and education for sustainable development. He has designed curriculum in schools with science and socio-emotional departments and organised many art-based projects to benefit both students and artists. This includes FOCUS 2015’s My Family Portrait: Crossovers in Space, Time and Culture with photographer Vivek Prakash and students from the education NGO, Muktangan. This year FOCUS on Learning has grown to include more schools and more narratives from Mumbai’s youth using photography as a way to experience their city through a personal lens.

Shabnam Lilani, Production Coordinator
Shabnam is a freelance arts producer and curator with a keen interest in the digital space. She has extensive experience working in the arts and media industry, and is the founder of the www.theartplace.in, an online gallery showcasing the works of young artists. Shabnam was instrumental in producing the 2014 Dhaka Art Summit and the ArtC public program in Chennai. She was the assistant curator to the Artistic Director at the 2016 Dhaka Art Summit. In addition to her role at AAP, she works at the CONA Foundation.

Agnes Vergne Sen Gupta, Production Coordinator

Sophie Wright, Content Producer

Volunteers: Zahra Amiruddin, Utsav Gagwani, Suraj Katra, Danish Lalkhani, Dilip Mistry, Kabir Palrecha, Akshita Parihar, Vivek Sankhwal, Ahalya Shetty, Vignesh Sugathan and Sneha Trivedi.