Gunjan Gupta is an acclaimed Indian designer pushing boundaries in the world of collectible art and design. Her latest collection, “Every Day / Yesterday,” offers a fresh interpretation of India’s cultural heritage through conceptual furniture, jewelry, photography and more. Displayed at the recent India Art Fair in New Delhi, the collection embodies Gupta’s trademark ingenious yet playful style. Merging artistry and functionality, the pieces reimagine traditional handmade crafts using innovative materials and techniques. In an exclusive interview with A+D, she decodes her notable pieces and navigates the exploration of India’s cultural paradoxes and contrasts:
What inspired the concept behind your collection titled “Every Day / Yesterday” for the India Art Fair’s inaugural design edition 2024?
The objects in GG Collectibles engage with India’s cultural paradoxes and the contrast between mastercraft and jugaad across a range of materials and typologies ranging from furniture / Jewelry / photography / wall art / tableware. ‘Everyday Yesterday’, comprises conceptual objects in my signature vocabulary of materials, crafting techniques and unique narratives.
How do you navigate the exploration of India’s cultural paradoxes and contrasts between Mastercraft and Jugaad in your design approach?
The objects in ‘Everyday Yesterday’ explore the complexities of Indian culture, highlighting the balance between expert craftsmanship and resourceful jugaad, by ingeniously combining artistry with functionality, making them international quality aspirational artworks rooted in Indian culture and tradition. Using a distinctive, playful style through a research-based approach to material innovation, these pieces showcase an innovative re-imagination of India’s handmade and craft traditions while staying true to its aesthetic legacies.
Could you elaborate on some of the conceptual objects featured in your collection and how they engage with India’s cultural contradictions?
The Pot is ‘HER’ Totem Pole is a signature piece – the Matkas tool tables – that morph into a series of 4 pots inspired by the sacred feminine, stacked on each other, typically like a totem pole that sometimes uses human forms telling a story of fertility and beauty associated with the primordial form.
The MudaWala Throne: Inspired by the bicycle vendors of India that carry mobile shops on their backs, appearing to be framed in a halo of their ware, the thrones are part of a famous throne series that have been exhibited widely across the world and institutionally acquired. The thrones capture a stack of India’s bamboo stools known as the ‘Muda’ on a seat made of bicycle parts wrapped in leather. The piece is part of MAD Musee Arts Decoratifs in Paris’ permanent collection of chairs.
GG Collectible Jewellery: The first of its kind, the GG Collectible jewellery is a set of miniatures of my iconic designs that interpret a chair, Thaali stack, and Matkaa represented as a series of rings in silver and stone.
How does your 18-year journey in collectible design influence the thematic elements and execution of your artworks?
Collectible design in India is nascent. Over the last 18 years Ive combined luxury interiors and collectable design with a commitment to craft advocacy and democratising design through a research-based practice. GG Collectibles is known for its distinct trademark playful approach towards material and form, where the artwork represents novel iterations of India’s handmade and craft vernacular. Through Studio Wrap’s approach to the project by designing collaboratively and consciously and IKKIS’ democratisation of design, I am aiming to seamlessly merge inspiration from everyday life with luxury aesthetics to produce objects for everyday use, challenging hierarchies and redefining collectable design rooted in India’s cultural heritage. My practice embodies a philosophy of multitudes, expressing a uniquely positioned global design and art narrative.
Collectible design is largely misunderstood but the potential is huge and platforms like India Art Fair for example, are very important to help change that narrative. I have been working in this space for the last 18 years with my first chair in pure silver and gold presented in London at 100 design which paved the way for a career in collectible design that I wasn’t really prepared for. The receptivity to my work was largely outside India and I experienced a freedom to express my ideas which I did not find in India until now. The great Indian narrative remains untold and untapped and I think the more designers stop playing it safe with their designs / collaborate with craft / express themselves culturally / materially with quality work – we have the world watching us and most importantly Indians collecting us.
What sets the “Every Day / Yesterday” collection apart from your previous exhibitions in terms of its exploration and critique of societal norms?
The collection is taking the everyday, rooted in the traditional and giving it a contemporary spin – at times minimalist and at other times, far more avante-garde and maximalist. The collection is about artful design; about something that is beautifully made and is reflective of quality workmanship, aesthetic and comfort. Through this collection, design becomes collectible when it questions the status quo and stands independent of trend and other common associations.
Much like art where the artist is free to express – Collectible designers do so with materials and standardised notions of design. Concept and a play with material is critical for a piece of design to become collectible – it’s about a complex object with several layers that emerged at a particular moment in time that makes it collectible in the future.
Can you share insights into the creation process behind notable pieces like the ‘HER’ Totem Pole and the MudaWala Throne?
These pieces embody a fusion of heritage and innovation, each telling a unique story. The Totem Pole is crafted in the Naga Totem style from upcycled oak waste and intricately carved using Japanese burnt wood techniques. Magnetic catchers hold it together to give versatility in how it is stacked together. It serves as a testament to both sustainability and cultural reverence – with its symbolic representation of the feminine form echoing narratives of generations past. Meanwhile, the Primordial Matka form pays homage to the timeless storytelling tradition – that goes back 500 years in Indian vernacular design vocabulary. The Bicycle Throne captures the essence of India’s urban landscape, celebrating the iconic Muda sellers and their significance in the cultural fabric. The process speaks to the seamless blend of tradition with modernity through these pieces, offering a glimpse into rich narratives and disappearing urban imagery.
How does GG Collectibles revolutionise the jewellery industry with its miniatures of iconic designs, and what impact do you foresee for the industry?
Incorporating miniature forms into my creative process has been a longstanding exploration, with these small-scale studies into form and material that often evolve into full-fledged products. One example is the Ganga Jamuna collection, which delves into the captivating interplay between gold and silver, manifested in exquisite thrones. Additionally, my fascination with the thalli’s vertical stack form has led to the creation of miniature versions, serving as a canvas for experimentation and expression. While these endeavours may not revolutionise the jewellery industry, they represent playful elements of my career that I am delighted to share as part of my creative vocabulary. Internationally, you have gallerists like Louisa Guinness, who champion translating artists’ work into jewellery, but this hasn’t yet happened in India. So, including these jewellery pieces mark a unique venture in India, where this is unprecedented. This venture signifies a pioneering exploration into miniature jewellery forms, offering a fresh perspective that wearers can adorn with pride.