Now not just art connoisseurs but society swans too can get a piece of Bose Krishnamachari’s signature sweeps and dips. This comes in the form of a limited edition of 200 bags and matching scarves which the artist has designed in collaboration with Tushar and Vikram Sethi of the Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA). The satin bags, onto which Krishnamachari’s paintings have been digitally transferred, will be available at the ICIA by the end of May. “Art making is finding newer avenues and this is just a way of extending your creativity to different levels,” says Krishnamachari, who feels that art is increasingly becoming a marketable commodity and not just on canvas or paper.
If the surge in artists associating themselves with fashion and luxury products is anything to go by, the Mumbai-based artist might have a point.
Grover Vineyards, to celebrate their 20th anniversary, is coming out with a new art collection that showcases a pairing of art and wine where the wine labels have been done by artists like Paresh Maity, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Rini Dhumal, and Rekha Rodwittiya.
“Our consumers belong to that social bracket that can appreciate both wine and art so we thought why not combine them,” says Kapil Grover of Grover Vineyards. According to Maity, art should not just belong in galleries and museums but should be accessible to everyone. “If I’m asked to design labels for water bottles, I’ll do it as they’ll be viewed by a larger demographic,” says Maity. He has previously designed furniture and other home décor items in collaboration with designers like Rohit Bal and Sabyasachi Mukherjee.
Grover’s not the first to get artists to design their labels. In 2001, Mumbai-based artist Jaideep Malhotra’s painting titled Satori had been used by Sula Vineyards for one of their labels. Malhotra has also designed the book covers for Vikram Chandra’s books Sacred Games and Love and Longing in Bombay.
While Maity and Krishnamachari are staunch advocates of art spilling into lifestyle, fashion and other spheres, Malhotra sees it as an interesting pastime to “tweak your mind” occasionally but nothing more. “The most important thing is to make sure that your painting doesn’t get distorted when converted into a label,” says Malhotra.
Interestingly, both Sula and Grover had been inspired by the French company Mouton Rothschild which, decades earlier, had gotten artists like Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh to design their wine labels.
Internationally, the collaboration between artists and luxury labels is nothing new. Design houses like Versace, Levis and Louis Vuitton have hired artists Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami and many others to design products. According to Krishnamachari, the trend seeped into India with the art boom of the ‘90s when owning artworks became a fad in itself.
Since then, many artists like Anjolie Ela Menon; Gunjan Gupta who designed for Swarovski; Krsna Mehta who along with Sangita Jindal came out with a series of cushions, incense sticks and special edition kites with pop images of Mumbai in 2007 for Good Earth; and Subodh Gupta, who designed a collection of baguettes for Fendi in 2003, have clamoured into the bandwagon.
Galleries too have awoken to the possibility of art assuming new dimensions. Gallery Le Sutra in Bandra is featuring a chair exhibition from May 16 to 25 showcasing the chairs designed by 29 artists and designers from all over the country. On display are chair concepts like Anand Prabhudesai’s ‘Fountain Pen Nib Chair’ that uses the concept of free flowing ink drawn by gravity and capillary action to the nib and then to the paper. Anuj Poddar’s ‘Third Eye’ is a mystical concept referring in part to the ajna (brow) chakra in certain Eastern spiritual traditions.
The exhibition is almost a throwback to ‘Circling the Square’, a functional art show held at Jehangir Art Gallery in 1993 where artists like Akbar Padamsee, Navjot Altaf and Krishnamachari had designed objects of daily use like chairs and tables with the assistance of a technical team provided to them. Which makes one wonder whether trends in art, like everything else, chart a cyclical path.