In India, our innate sense of luxury goes beyond bespoke. It lies in the handmade, the everyday, in being inclusive and that’s what “Made in…India: Samskara” reveals. The exhibition, which opened on Tuesday, fuses traditional craft with contemporary expertise to fashion clothes, tableware, furniture, textiles and decor.
More than 23 designers from across the country were selected to adapt, adopt or improve a material or product from their repertoire for this exhibition. This platform has been made possible by Be Open, a cultural and social initiative by Russian philanthropist Yelena Baturina, which launched a global project last month to preserve handmade traditions.
They roped in Sunil Sethi, President, Fashion Design Council of India, to be the Creative Consultant and had architect Anupama Kundoo design the exhibition space. The Twin Art Gallery at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) on Janpath has transformed into a gallery for the senses — with textured stone flooring and turquoise blue waterbodies creating a landscape for marble tables and beaten brass thalis.
Kundoo got 26 stone artisans from Tamil Nadu to lay out a temporary flooring with an ancient material as granite. Asymmetrically placed by hand, the speckled grey slabs form undulating benches, floors and platforms on which the 300 designer products are placed or viewed from. “My challenge was to enhance the way the visitors will experience the products. Chandeliers need a different space from say a bed. There had to be a common experience between every product. So, while the exhibition is temporary, the experience doesn’t have to be,” she says.
The empty pathways and pools of seating spread across 240-odd sqm of the 600 sqm of hall space is Kundoo’s take on luxury. These areas are left open-ended for visitors to ramble about or stop and stare. Waterbodies made from handcrafted ferro-cement slabs not only give the eye relief but also become the stage where products are placed.
From terracotta speakers and iPod charging docks by Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra (T&T) to a blow-glass peacock mural by Prateek and Gautam Jain of Klove, from a Pookalam Chandelier by Sahil and Sarthak, inspired by floral rangolis in Kerala to a Gadda chair by Gunjan Gupta, a spin on the Western recliner — it’s a sybaritic freedom of expression.
Crossing over genres, fashion designers have made tables and expanded their design vocabulary in the process. Gaurav Gupta’s six-piece installation including a rug and a single seater and a sofa is a pun on functional art, placing fashion and art into a space that is “de-seated – defeated and seated,” he says. “The rug is half-velvet and half-burnt. I wanted to suspend that sense of the natural and talk of transcience,” says Gupta.
Many of the products have been in collaboration with Sunil Sethi Design Alliance, which teams up with designers to create textiles and products. T&T’s terracotta designs for this show is an example. “My job is to show to the world what India has. I want the designers and their products to get an international focus. We’ve taken the legacy of traditional crafts and given it a contemporary twist. Also, while the designers have made products for the exhibition, they are free to commercialise them later. We don’t hold a copyright, ultimately it is their design,” says Sethi.
Beds, chairs, consoles, lamps, poufs, platters, bed linen, towels, eye masks, bathware, and tableware exude an inherent essence of being made in India, but are not on sale currently.
The exhibition has other global counterparts such as a “Made in Italy” and a “Made in Japan”, select products from these will culminate in a Be Open “Made in the World” exhibition/auction next year, either in London or Italy.
This is a unique exhibition on several levels where artisans have etched their stamp on floors and designers have hoopdanced through crafts, making way for endless possibilities and combinations in the future.
The exhibition is on till February 28, from 10.30 am to 7 pm at Twin Art Gallery, IGNCA.