Around what now seems like a lifetime ago, I was meandering through the galleries of Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland – a private museum hosting one of the finest collections of modern art. Crisp white walls and minimal décor form a quiet backdrop to the works of Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Vincent van Gogh, Francis Bacon, Paul Cezanne, and many more. I was fascinated. At least I thought I was until I was standing in the Monet Room. Claude Monet’s gigantic ‘The Water-Lily Pond’ circa 1917-20 stared back at me. It was a wintery December evening but I could no longer feel the cold; suddenly I was transported to a warm spring day in the middle of water lily ponds. I could almost hear the birds chirping and smell the flowers. It is said that art has the ability to seep into your soul and take over your being. It was at that moment I finally understood how.
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Art collector and philanthropist Kiran Nadar understands this emotional and moving power of art. Among her many impressive achievements is the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) in New Delhi, a private museum exhibiting modern and contemporary works from India and the sub-continent. With the objective of demystifying art to the common man, KNMA hosts a variety of exhibitions, lectures, programs and workshops. Instead of having art locked behind closed doors and inaccessible to most, their vision is to bring art to the people. One such wonderful endeavour sees manifestation in the Art x Fashion series by KNMA where notable names in the fashion industry open up about how art from across the ages influences them.
Art and fashion are so closely linked. The creators of both constantly express themselves, pushing boundaries to a point where the viewer, and the wearer, are emotionally sculpted by the experience. We’ve seen the two intersect numerous times to bring out the best of both worlds; Versace used Andy Warhol’s works as prints on its clothes, Elsa Schiaparelli worked with famed Surrealist Salvador Dali making his art wearable, Piet Mondrian’s striking geometrics inspired Hermes, and Damien Hirst’s Entomology series found its way on to creations by Alexander McQueen. This mini-series by KNMA of the short videos, available to view on their social media platforms, explores the relationship between the two.
We get to hear how Indian designers, stylists and fashion entrepreneurs have been moved by art and how that medium not only influenced their work but, in some cases, was incorporated on to their designs through collaborations. Designer Amit Aggarwal, who considers the natural world as one of the finest art forms, talks about drawing inspiration from Yayoi Kusama, Bharti Kher and Vibha Galghotra. Describing his signature look as draped liquid metal, he feels a deep connection with Subodh Gupta’s art. For him art and fashion feed off each other; both expressions have the unique power to start cultures and movements.
Designer Ayushman Mitra of Bobo Calcutta shines a light on how iconography in Bengali culture shapes his vision. His creations, which feature vibrant eye motifs, draw inspiration from the large, expressive eyes of the goddesses. Designer Rahul Mishra, whose very first collection was inspired by Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, illustrates the parallels between an artist’s canvas and a fashion collection. He talks about how it’s not just the art that’s an inspiration but an artist’s life; studying their journey to their novel perspectives influences his work.
Award-winning designer duo Shivan & Narresh expand on how art, travel and nature influence their designs. The seed of their very first collection was planted in their minds on a trip to the Milan Natural History Museum – the beautiful, jewel-toned insects moved them. When they travel, they make sure to visit museums showcasing local and domestic artists as a way to tap into the culture. As does veteran Indian designer Tarun Tahiliani who explains how art inspires his storytelling through fashion while exploring the impact it has had on not only his creations but his life.
On Mansi: Dress, Amit Aggarwal.Listening to their vivid stories, I completely understand the profound effect art can have on a person. To this day, I still feel the deep impression of those few moments with Monet.
Photographer: Tarun Vishwa; Styling: Malini Banerji; Art Direction: Pinky Akola, Hair & Make-up: Deepa Verma Makeup; Headgear: Stylist’s own; Model: Mansi, Anima Creatives; Assisted by: Rupangi Grover, Sanya Mahajan (styling); Location: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art