Couture meets canvas
Bungalow 8's breezy designer labels and statement jewellery get paired with works by Jitish Kallat and Dhruvi Acharya in a weekend pop-up at a heritage Bandra bungalow
Shireen Gandhy (seated) and Maithili Ahluwalia at Kekee Manzil. A 6-ft-tall piece by artist Shankuntala Kulkarni juxtaposed with jewellery pieces by Claudia Von Hansemann and Jamini Ahluwalia and a metallic woven pashmina by Kashmir Loom, courtesy Bungalow 8, are part of the ongoing exhibition and sale, where art meets design. Pic/Satej Shinde
This weekend, art and fashion will give friendship a chance at a heritage sea-facing mansion in Bandra. Gallerist Shireen Gandhy of Chemould Prescott Road and design entrepreneur Maithili Ahluwalia of Bungalow 8 come together to host an art-meets-fashion exhibition and sale at Gandhy's home, Kekee Manzil. They call the collaboration "effortless" since art and design have been intrinsic to their lives. Gandhy is daughter to one of Mumbai's most prominent gallerist couples, late Kekoo Gandhy and Khorshed, while Maithili's grandmother Chandu Morarji was behind the city's first lifestyle store, Dagina.
But Gandhy and Ahluwalia's weekend project first celebrates what 'home' means to them, since it's here that the coming together will unfold. "As we started talking, we saw our homes as more than mere brick and mortar structures, or an address. They were really a way of life. The idea of living in a bungalow is outdated now, and people can't situate modernity with the past. This event demonstrates how you could live in an old structure but still be surrounded by modern art and design," says Ahluwalia.
Her home, 8 Carmichael Road and Gandhy's Kekee Manzil hosted the intellectual, artistic and political. "Our home was like a railway station. We never knew who would drop in over the weekend; and guests became my friends," says Gandhy, recalling visits from socialist leader Mrinal Gore. Maithili may have missed meeting The Aga Khan and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay but she speaks fondly of her memories of Sotheby's curator Janice Blackburn. It is this common link, a synergy between art and fashion, under an overarching theme of home that makes this collaboration sweeter.
Edited excerpts from the conversation:
Can fashion be considered an art form?
Shireen Gandhy (SG): Of course. I see quite a few similarities between what Maithili does and what I do. So many artists have inspired fashion. SH Raza's iconic Bindu inspired prints on sarees in the '80s, for instance.
Maithili Ahluwalia (MA): The lines are blurring. The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York is consolidated proof of a marriage between art and fashion. They focus on two design exhibitions every year. In 2015, the Devi Art Foundation in New Delhi conceptualised an exhibition called Fracture: Indian Textiles, New Conversations, which coincided with the India Art Fair. They commissioned designers, visual artists and a filmmaker to explore textile as art and as production. But I think not many gallery owners are open to hosting an art-meets-design event. Lighting and space of a gallery are like the Holy Grail. To take art out of there and bring it home for a show — that's like a woman being stripped of her make-up.
The world thinks of art as something for the erudite. But it's the 'air headed' who display an interest in fashion....
SG: Art demands a certain space and mindset, and I'm quite certain I've overstepped those limits by bringing art to my home. Some people who'll visit us this weekend may never come to the gallery. They may have only heard of Chemould.
MA: When I was growing up, I considered the Patola saree art. So, is Patola fashion or art? Isn't art about an idea? And, if the idea is compelling enough, it can surely accommodate design.
SG: The idea is to make modern and contemporary art accessible, that's why an event like this is important. Younger gallery owners like Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal are challenging traditional notions of the gallery. In September, their gallery, Chatterjee & Lal hosted a two-day pop-up of Delhi designer duo, Lovebirds.
MA: My brother, Ashim, is showing his film at Jhaveri Contemporary gallery. He doesn't call himself an artist but a filmmaker. But he has got gallery representation now.
What were your first encounters with art and fashion respectively?
MA: I belong to a textile-oriented family. We were never part of the modern art movement. Instead, we collected traditional art.
SG: My first flirtation with the fashion world was when we hosted artist Vivan Sundaram's shows, Making Strange: Gagawaka and Postmortem (after Gagawaka).
My first designer purchase was a Tarun Tahiliani that I bought for my wedding. I paid '3,000 for it, and considered it an extravagant purchase. Despite my Parsi heritage, I don't own a gara. Indian handlooms have been a constant part of my clothing ethos.
How did you juxtapose your roster of artists and designers for the show?
SG: We looked at the pool of available art pieces that could be paired with the abstract, graphic, geometric and textural theme of Bungalow 8's collection. We have an assortment of paintings, multi-media and sculptures by Jitish Kallat, Lavanya Mani, Tushar Joag, and Dhruvi Acharya to match the graphic flora work by Aditi Singh, Gigi Scaria's landscape video and a neon installation by Shilpa Gupta.
MA: Whether it's an Abraham & Thakore jacket contrasted with artist Sheetal Gattani, or a Neeru Kumar stole sharing space with Dhruvi Acharya watercolours, nothing seems jerky. You'll find art and fashion subconsciously speaking to each other, in fact, exposing a lot of similarity. For this collaboration, we have worked with Anjana Das, Sonam Dubal, Jamini Ahluwalia, Olivia Dar and Lovebirds.
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