Free the artisan: India at the Revelations Fine Craft Biennial

Curated by designer Gunjan Gupta, India’s debut at the Revelations Fine Craft Biennial in Paris redirects our attention to the hand of the maker

Published - May 17, 2019 03:45 pm IST

May 2019 seems to be a great month for Indian art and craftsmen on the global stage. Not only is there an India Pavilion (for the second time) in the Venice Biennale’s 124-year history, but Indian musicians like Kawa Generation and Sharmila Sharma Company will soon make their way to Mawazine 2019, Morocco, in June. Adding to this list is India’s debut at Revelations 2019, the international fine craft and creation fair to be held at Paris’ Grand Palais next week.

Curated by industrial designer, Gunjan Gupta, the Indian pavilion will showcase the work of seven craftsmen, and will include Giriraj Prasad from New Delhi (terracotta pottery), Om Prakash Galav from Rajasthan (miniature pottery) and Ranjeet Singh from Assam (Sitalpati mats).

No stranger to international platforms herself — she has presented her work at the Venice Architectural Biennale and the Triennale Design Museum and her iconic throne chairs made it to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris — Gupta is helping highlight iconic Indian shapes and indigenous materials in a contemporary light. “While craft collaborations with artists and designers leave the audience in awe of creations, the credit is given to the mind of the artist and rarely to the hand of the artisan,” begins the New Delhi-based designer, who has worked extensively with wrapping craftsmen in Udaipur. She says craft, considered pejorative in the local context, is exoticised internationally by enterprises whose offerings range from unflattering reproductions of traditional designs to the cheap and cheerful handicraft synonymous with India. “Recent visits to ateliers and dialogues with craftsman reveal a desire to break from tradition and a call for artistic freedom,” she continues.

The presentation at the fourth edition of Revelations is a step in that direction, and the titles, ranging from shankh (conch shell) and matka (earthen water pot) to shunya (zero), kangan (bracelet) and macchli (fish) speak for themselves. They capture the vernacular aesthetic into artistic expressions, adds Gupta. Meanwhile, the woman behind the design studio, Wrap, has something else to celebrate — her newest design brand, Ikkis, launched at Maison & Objet earlier this year.

The collection revisits iconic Indian kitchenware and includes a soon-to-be-patented terracotta-coated copper finish. “We were working on the finish for a long time and the fusion blends luxury and mundane in timeless pieces such as the lota (vessel), kulhar (tea glass), matka (pot) and balti (bucket),” she says. The Ikkis Limited Edition Collection has now been acquired by the M+ museum in Hong Kong and will be soon seen at the museum’s contemporary design collection from Asia.

The International Fine Craft & Creation Biennial will be held from May 23 to 26 at Grand Palais, Paris. Details:

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