India Design 2022 (ID) was recently held at Okhla’s NSIC exhibition ground in Delhi. Here’s how an art critic saw the exhibition that celebrates home décor and design
What differentiates art from design? Practitioners would argue it is the methodology used and the intent envisioned. As a viewer, I perceive the distinction thus – art invokes an internal dialogue spanning a variety of emotions, while design caters purely to individual sensibilities. In the case of the former, you may or may not like the work of art in question, but it finds place in your consciousness, even forcing you to change your initial impression of it in some cases. For the latter, however, you either like the piece or you don’t, can either envision it in a space or cannot.
With this in mind, my first ever visit to India Design 2022 (ID), which recently took place at Okhla’s NSIC exhibition ground was highly educational. It taught me to look at design from an artistic viewpoint, and not merely through the commercial lens the world had thrust upon it. Currently in its tenth year, this trade fair showcasing the country’s finest home décor and design, has become the definitive ‘Design Week of India’, for good reason.
Over five jampacked days, its team organises an ID Symposium where important names in the field of architecture, design, and town planning from India and around the world, share ideas, network and interact with design legends and creative influencers; display a selection of design, architecture and interiors at the ID Exhibit, including furniture, lighting, interiors, kitchens, accessories, flooring and home technology from local and international brands; award the deserving through their ID Honours which celebrates 50 cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind homes and the architects/designers behind them; and celebrate the joie de vivre sparked by good design through a series of fun pop-ups and parties as part of its ID Satellite program in Delhi and Mumbai.
Design ID kicked off this year with a VIP preview opening night, whose invitees included the who’s who of Delhi – regular buyers and appreciators of the finer things in life. I was keen to attend in anticipation of seeing the best of design and décor on display, in what I hoped would be relatively less crowded environs. This wasn’t the case however, as denizens of the capital city thronged the space in large numbers. Despite the burning heat of May and the fact that Design ID followed closely on the footsteps of the stupendously successful India Art Fair, no one seems to be tiring of attending physical events.
Misha Bains, Publisher Elle Décor and Director, Design ID explains, “Till about two weeks ago, we weren’t sure the India Design ID would take place as the Covid numbers were going up. We asked a lot of people for advice before deciding to go ahead. It was a challenging year to put this together. But each one of the exhibitors really came together and put in so much effort to make this a success.” An unprecedented footfall, show of interest in the pieces through inquiries, and sales across traditional and experimental brands proves her statement.
Though well-attended, the VIP Preview had some glitches – a number of booths were not set up, and a few others were not prepared with information and cards, as they hadn’t expected any buying customers that evening. This annoyed a few regular patrons whose only objective of trekking out on a Wednesday night had been to grab the best pickings. Drinks and snacks on the house, however, made up for this, and allowed one to spend time analysing the exhibits that were open. Of these, the ones that particularly stood out included Arari Millwork Experience’s elegant moving teakwood library and stately wooden structure surrounded by a single-piece leather bar; Neytt by Extraweave’s striking single-line art carpets made in collaboration with Dutch designer Niel Kiene Salventius; the freewheeling graffiti amidst nature named ‘El Rincon Perdido’ or ‘The Lost Corner’ of White Domus Designs in collaboration with Spanish artist Javi Escobar; the confluence of art and design through the curated pieces of Bangladeshi artists Tayeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman at ArttD’Inox; and the strong statement of sustainability and feminism displayed at The Pea Family Studio helmed by the anonymous performance artist Princess Pea.
These works caught my eye for their stark visual appeal and strong message, yet it wasn’t until I attended The Art Appreciation Society’s curated walkthrough of Design ID on Day three, that I had the chance to delve deep into the gamut of talent and design sensibilities on display. It was led by Misha Bains, who was ably accompanied by Princess Vaishnavi Kumari of Kishangarh, Art Historian and founder of Studio Kishangarh, an organization that works to preserve and promote the work of Indian miniature artists. As the custodian of Design ID, Bains handpicked a few booths to walk us through that she felt best represented the diversity of the design industry.
The walk began in the Design Pavilion with the multi-design studio from Jaipur – AKFD, before moving to The Quarry’s Monsters in Love single-piece marble collection designed by Architect Karan Desai known for his out-of-the-box creations. From there, we visited 8/10 One Studio whose clean wood and metal art deco-inspired pieces appealed across the board; This and That which ingeniously wove traditional crafts into modern pieces such as the lac-inlaid bottoms of toadstool-shaped tables; Jaipur by Within which was a selection of beautiful marble pieces inlaid with blue pottery, inspired by the city of the same name; and the quirky iridescent furniture at Hatsu.
We were then led to the Decoration Pavilion to the stall of K2India helmed by Kohelika Kohli who offered soothing multi-use interiors to suit post-pandemic considerations. Next, we sampled the mixed aesthetics of Beyond Design who aren’t afraid to pair traditional Indian motifs with European chintz. This was followed by stops at Carpet Cellar whose stunning collection of ancient and new carpets had us enthralled; Vida Heydari Contemporary – an art gallery from Pune aware of the importance of art as an item of home décor; and Shanti Benaras who are working to preserve the embroidery practice of Benarasi artisans by commissioning them to embroider copies of intricate Pichwai paintings. Our tour ended with the piece de resistance – the Kohler bathroom sink made by the first ever Indian winner of their global Artist Editions contest. Artist Jaiprakash had recreated a detailed miniature painting of a forest, evoking a sense of calm in a chaotic world.
Our exit from the enclosure was through the attractive exhibit of Asian Paints which focused strongly on digital art and the future of home décor. I cannot envision these futuristic pieces in my home, but they definitely made for a cool Instagram worthy visual. Ultimately, it was this ‘cool’ factor that dominated India Design 2022. It allowed us to view beautiful design and the confluence of creative ideas, all while seeing and being seen.
Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached on [email protected]