Saturday, July 13, 2024

Vikram Goyal and Vinita Chaitanya on his big Salone Del Mobile outing

I remember vividly about 15 years ago, when Vikram Goyal and I worked on the Aircel offices in Gurugram. It was then that I commissioned him to make the Bengali mukuts that were scaled up to about 8-9 feet. I recall also using a few dozens of his temple top finials as accent pieces throughout the offices. I should preserve these now as these are ‘Vikram Goyal heritage’.

| Video Credit:
Production: Gayatri Menon

Vikram and I collaborate on almost all my residential projects — not only on metal artisan crafts, but stone work inlays and mixed materials. We often bounce ideas off each other and discuss concepts and sketch to materiality, and then execution. I have bought some amazing limited edition and custom repoussage panels from him, which are often the main accent walls in my design. The finishes are impeccable and that is so important. Now, with Vikram debuting in Milan — which is momentous because he is the first Indian to show at Nilufar Gallery — as part of Salone Del Mobile, I caught up with him for a chat about his love of art and craft, his journey so far, and his Italian experience.

Vinita Chaitanya

Vinita Chaitanya

Vinita Chaitanya: [Let’s begin with] the eclectic world of Nilufar.

Vikram Goyal: For all the galleries around the world that I have seen, some are more pure in the sense of design, much like a carpenter’s workshop — such as Todd Merrill Studio and Friedman Benda in New York. But I’ve always been fascinated by Nina Yashar [founder of Milan’s Nilufar Gallery] the most because she has one foot in the past in terms of mid-century designs, lights and furniture, and carpets. Her space is wonderful and she herself has such an interesting personality. So, for me, Nilofer is the epitome of a design gallery.

Vinita Chaitanya: Also, at this point, it’s about being recognised by the right people — people who appreciate art, rather than those who don’t know the intricacies of the art or artisans.

Vikram Goyal: That’s the one regret I have about not being [present] in Milan, because they’ll see the pieces for their aesthetic and design value, but they won’t appreciate the craft. For example, the Thar console, where each part is made up of 1,000 small parts, and each one has been cut and beaten by hand, and then welded together by hand. It’s a painstaking process, and if someone looks closely, they’ll know how it’s done. But the craft narrative that is in India’s DNA — that story will have to be told.

Vikram Goyal’s designs at Nilufar Depot Gallery

Vikram Goyal’s designs at Nilufar Depot Gallery
| Photo Credit:
Filippo Pincolini

Vinita Chaitanya: I’ll try and tell the story when I see it. When you first launched Viya Home, I remember walking into the store in Bombay and it was like a curated story with beautiful little pieces picked up from different places. You had just come back from New York after your banking life.

Vikram Goyal: Yes. We started our curated store in Defence Colony, and then we moved to M.G. Road, and by that time, we had started working in brass. I would collect beautiful Indian things from my travels just to bring character to the space, to give historical context to our pieces.

Vinita Chaitanya: I remember your beautiful pichwai panels. Then you turned to Brutalism, repoussé, etc. Over the years, there’s been a huge evolution in the kind of work you are producing.

Archimedes’ Twist showcased at Nilufar Depot Gallery in Milan

Archimedes’ Twist showcased at Nilufar Depot Gallery in Milan

Borobudur

Borobudur

Vikram Goyal: 2024 will be our 20th year. We enjoyed India Modern, and then we moved to the Art Deco period, the Brutalist style, and into this period of organic abstract forms, which were more minimal in style. All this happened because the more I travelled — [and visited] museums, flea markets, and design studios — and learned about design, it appealed to me more. We were also engaging with international artists and designers, so there was this natural evolution. Even with repoussé, it was interesting because we had started with tile panels before making decorative ones, and now we’ve come back to the devotional, where there’s a pantheon of gods and goddesses. This is one way of testing the merit of craftsmanship because you need a high degree of refinement. Also, there’s a great market for it, so it allows us to finance other experiments.

Vinita Chaitanya: I also find you quite spiritual. I know that whenever you go out in India, you visit temples and [explore its] architecture. You also read a lot; I’ve seen a beautiful collection of your books — with a mix of art, architecture, travel, philosophy.

Vikram Goyal: In India, if you want to be a part of the design world, you have to try and absorb different mediums. There is nothing I enjoy more than reading about art and design, history, architecture and culture. We find inspiration in many things, from ceramics to ancient historical museums, to contemporary art.

Thar cabinets

Thar cabinets

Geodesic

Geodesic

Vinita Chaitanya: I agree. But also, you are from Rajasthan. You were brought up in this old world scenario.

Vikram Goyal: Yes, my mother’s family is from Rajasthan. I grew up in Delhi, which is culturally very rich. I’ve also travelled extensively in Rajasthan. My grandfather had a great fondness for arts and artefacts, and his house was crammed with antiques. Even my father had this great fondness for old books — art, design and architecture. When I was in engineering college, my room was the most ‘decorated’ one! There was always an awareness of the visual arts. This grew when I lived in Washington and New York, both places with many museums, and then Hong Kong. I was fortunate to have been exposed to both the Oriental and Occidental styles, on top of my exposure to Indian arts.

Ophidian console

Ophidian console

Braque’s Geometry

Braque’s Geometry

Vinita Chaitanya: When we first started buying your larger limited edition panels, you told me that you wanted to keep them as art. We first acquired these lovely Tree of Life panels. But then I saw this beautiful Balaji panel in your studio, and it was a wow moment. Now, you’ve moved on to Dreamscapes, which are full of good luck charms. I don’t know if it’s post-pandemic or just the mindset of how we are in India: I think we’re always emotional and religious.

Vikram Goyal: In India, everything has a story. You turn a corner and the tree has a story. These myriad belief systems inspired me to create a number of pieces for the Art Fair based on belief. So, we have this Dreamscape, which is based on the belief of good luck and good fortune, and then the Tree of Good Fortune with talismans and amulets. It was post-pandemic, so we thought let’s create islands of prosperity and good luck — we really believe in it, much more so than the West.

Vinita Chaitanya: You’ve done so much beautiful work relating to India, but when you showed in Milan, you took much simpler works. Here you’ve shown your minimalist pieces, Brutalist pieces — they have gorgeous craft but are not the big India story.

Vikram Goyal: Nina Yashar chose the pieces. There’s something from the India Modern collection, we have the Borobudur table, the Archimedes’ Twist console, which is a very dramatic sculptural piece. Then she has these large sconces [Braque’s Geometry] which are made in a Cubist style with a lot of detail. She’s also got cabinets from the Thar series and, in the repoussé, she has the metallic python — a more abstract and contemporary language. I don’t think the Indian belief system will resonate with an international audience.

Nina Yashar of Nilufar Gallery

Nina Yashar of Nilufar Gallery

Vinita Chaitanya: I think she has chosen pieces that work in their spaces or design languages.

Vikram Goyal: This is the first time they are showing a designer from India, and I hope there will be many more. So, it made sense to have a collection that is Indian in the way it is made, but not necessarily India centric in terms of decoration. But having said that, she did take a Borobudur table, which is very Asian.

Vinita Chaitanya: So, you must be thrilled that you chucked that banking life of yours.

Vikram Goyal: I still keep myself educated; I like to understand how economics, politics and businesses operate. So, I keep that side of me very much alive, straddling both the left and right side of the brain.

Vinita Chaitanya: Art and finance, I think that’s amazing.

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