BE OPEN Made in…India Exhibition, Delhi Feb 10-28/14
Samskara Brand Concept Store
For the BE OPEN Made in…India exhibition in Delhi which opened Feb 10, 2014, renowned architect and educator, Anupama Kundoo, transformed interiors of the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts into a environment of calm and balance–and a zone of chic–with modern fixtures, indoor pools and local hand-carved stone used in original ways.
Undulating shelves of native granite were installed to reconfigure the space and demarcate “rooms” to display 350 extraordinary items from India’s top designers. The stone was hand-worked by indigenous craftsman using techniques dating back to the Golden Era in India of iconic and monumental tomb architecture. Grey-speckled granite flooring, also hand cut, alternated with sunken strips of pebbles to create a sense of spatial geometry and to suggest contact with nature and the out doors. Installed overhead were metal circular disc lamps, which created an even, muted lighting for the display, resembling clouds and encouraging reflection.
All of these features gave an effect of an exquisitely-crafted, up-to-the-minute, high-end open concept store that could have existed in any world capital. Notably, it was crucial for the architect to create a sense of space to “wander” amongst the designs, “more like a design park than a museum,” as she described it. The four pools, painted blue, with reflective, shimmering surfaces, contained submerged pedestals customized to hold some of the most impressive furniture items, creating an effect of flotation for some of the strongest pieces of the show. These and other effects suggested cutting edge international retail design in what once was rather ordinary space.
The comments from VIPS at the exhibition party, and after, when pictures were released on social media often asked ”Where is this place in Delhi? I have never seen such a place” In fact many opening night attendees commented that they came to see the space as much as the items on display and were impressed by the seemingly effortless integration overall. One designer, Ashish Soni, recalled that for years as he drove to his studio everyday past the Indira Gandhi Art Center, a charming, white portico-ed colonial building set in lawns in New Delhi’s center, that he fantasized of one day hosting a special event there himself. When he arrived at the venue, he was astonished by the transformation.
The overall space was divided between the large exhibition room, with its textured and articulated enclaves across from the Talk Space, where guests crowded earlier to hear the panel of international experts speak on “The Future of Making”. This space also included a photo gallery of craftsmen at work and some media rooms for interviews and private meetings. On the evening of the exhibition opening the forecourt area quickly filled with an enthusiastic crowd of design aficionados, international visitors and local dignitaries who arrived for the ceremonial lamp lighting by the Honourable Minister of Culture, Chandresh Kumari Katoch and the Honourable Minister of Textiles, Kavuri Sambasiva Rao. The approach was hung with oversize signage in BE OPEN theme colors of deep maroon and scarlet red, highlighting the BE OPEN Talks, and Samskara branded collection of designs on exhibition, and also the Made in…India Competition.
The idea of creating a cohesive, over-riding brand for the remarkable products on display furthered the idea of the concept store for Made in…India designs In fact this was the first time in India that the various design disciplines – fashion, furniture, metal work, textiles, lighting and housewares – were seen under one roof but also collected under one brand concept.
The freshness and authenticity of the Indian brand items were clearly enhanced by strong relationships between the au courant designers and the craftspeople whom they engaged for the exhibition pieces, including metal-workers, glass blowers, tailors, seamstresses, stone cutters, woodcarvers, dyers, painters and potters. This intrinsic sense of collaboration between parties fulfilled the mission of BE OPEN in India, to create from the existing skills and artistry of the past, with the novel ideas and innovative work in the present, an integrative and sustainable future for Indian design that will leave a unique cultural imprint on the global marketplace. The BE OPEN team of international creatives and business advisors, through research of the widespread regions of the sub-continent, uncovered pockets of craftsman activity and community that introduce new possibilities to contemporary designers and consumers, as well as the diversity that still exists in ancient methods. With the success of the Made in…India exhibition there is now more certainty that those methods will continue to be useful and commercial.
Clearly the event created vigorous dialog and uncovered numerous opportunities for designers and craftsmen collaborations in this corner of the world.