Putting India on the global art map, Gunjan Gupta, Creative Director, Wrap speaks of art as a marriage of ideas, trends, themes and craftsmen from diverse segments of contemporary and modern India. Here, she speaks about her conceptual art and her exhibition at the Milan Furniture Fair
Known for creating innovative and creative designs, what does art mean to you?
I collect works of emerging artists and I buy what I like – I think the art market has exploded in India and there is a lot of good work at good prices that can be of value in the long run. I am not very informed on art as an investment, but I feel that it’s quite inclusive in many ways. I would hope to see design follow in its footsteps with many more particpants and platforms in the coming years.
How would you define your artistic vision?
My artistic vision is to create an Indian luxury and lifestyle range of products that connect traditional craft with contemporary design for a global luxury market.
What is the concept behind such creative furniture designs?
India and the growing consumer demand for interesting conceptual and well-made furniture from India is the inspiration behind my work.
How did you come up with the concept of fusing traditional Indian crafts into making bespoke furniture?
This idea has been around for many years and one of the first projects to capture the spirit of contemporarty product design in collaboration with Indian artisanship was the Golden Eye by Rajeev Sethi. As a young designer living in India, I do what comes naturally to me!
Can you elaborate about ‘Wrap’ your concept store, its philosophy and the response to your repositioning of ‘Made in India’ label?
The Wrap Gallery is part of our design facilty in Mehrauli. It’s an interesting experience that connects design and production and showcase in a wholesome space. It’s always interesting to see the process behind the works. The Wrap gallery showcases limited edition works from the Gunjan Gupta label along with an assortment of products designed by the Wrap studio.
You have won several accolades internationally for your design concept and creations, what is your most memorable work of art?
I really enjoyed working with Droog Design for the Urbanplay project in Amsterdam. It led me to work conceptually with Indian jugaad. ‘Inspired by India’ curated by Janice Blackburn at Sotheby’s in 2009 was a great selling exhibition for me. It was also interesting to be a part of the YCE tour to Scotland with British Council with all other finalists from particpating countries. It was a very interesting exchange of ideas and issues!
Where do draw your artistic inspiration from?
India inspires me and I have a great team of young designers that help me achieve it.
Unique in concept and form, your ideas and creations are a platform to showcase the human crafts; what response have you received for your endeavour of bringing humanity into your products?
I think the Indian material palette and craft skill against the background of its 1,000-year-old illustrious history is a very potent combination. I speak of Indian luxury craft skills that lost patronge post independence in a degraded condition, almost on the verge of obsolesence. While there is a lot of effort in upgrading and salvaging the craft sector in India by the Government and entrepreneurs, the luxury crafts are often overlooked and continue to remain at the mercy of the export market. This segment has sustained a diluted version of the tradition. My work is all about bringing patronage back to these skills through quality and design and thereby restoring respect for Indian skill and artisanship. Hopefully this will make it aspirational for the next generation of artisans to take up the craft.
How has your experience been participating in international design events and what response have you garnered to the ‘Made in India’ label now?
I think the ‘Made in India’ label needs to be repositioned within a design context. It is one of the oldest labels that was once greatly respected for its fine crafts, but over the years there is a list of common associations that people tend to make with it and generally the words design/ luxury/quality and contemporary are not associated. The response has been fabulous so far!
As India’s first globally recognised luxury product design that marries traditional Indian craft with contemporary design for international luxury market, how do you see the future?
The old 1850s advice of ‘Go west, young man’ when the American West was seen as the gateway to prosperity now sees a turnabout as we look East to the booming economies of Asia. Indian demand for top-end luxury goods is predicted to expand anually by as much as 20 per cent in the next three-four years. I think the future looks very promising for India as a creator and consumer of luxury products. Indian billionaires globally are driving a fine taste for new luxury with their mansions and looking to adapt Indian culture in a contemporary format. This trend will surely see an upswing.
For your Milan show in April, you recreated the Indian bicycle concept shop. Tell us more.
I created a bicycle concept shop in Amsterdam in 2008 as a recycling worshop in the tradition of Indian jugaad shops where old bicycles are deconstructed to create street furniture. It was great fun to see the Dutch recycling domestic objects to create backdrops for the bicycle seats. The bicycle thrones designed by me have been a by-product of this project. Other than showcasing my work, I am recreating this shop in Milan to give the audience a broader perspective of India.
Who are your favourite furniture designers?
Campana brothers, Gaetano Pesce , Jasper Morrison, among others.
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