As he prepares to unveil a glorious new masterpiece at India Art Fair, Delhi-based designer, Vikram Goyal, talks to Sophie Goodwin about the forgotten world of repoussé, his homage to the Silk Road and the future of Indian design.




After two decades in design exploring Indian metalwork techniques, few have a firmer grip on the relevance and sophistication of Indian craftsmanship than Delhi-based designer, Vikram Goyal. Showcasing his work for the second time at the city's India Art Fair this week, Goyal's studio is a hive of activity: a karkhana (the Hindi word for workshop) where he honors and protects old world techniques and philosophy alongside modern design and demand.

"I’m not a trained artisan, so I created a journey through my studio instead, retraining skilled artisans and pushing everything in terms of scale," he tells Cabana. "It's a form of worship, a way to do what I want and what I believe."

Known for his limited edition screens, mirrors, consoles and coffee tables, realised in the studio's signature brass, Goyal is preparing to unveil Silken Passage, a magnificent 28ft x 8ft metallic mural inspired by the trade routes of the Silk Road. The work is characteristic of his oeuvre, which often pays homage to historic cultural narratives and celebrates the exchange of goods and ideas. This masterpiece of metallurgy features natural emblems, vessels and sculptural forms and topographies depicting artistic expression from Japan, China, India, Iran, Turkey and Italy. 



Goyal's murals also exemplify his signature use of the forgotten art of repoussé, an intricate, metalworking technique that sees experts carve out metal in modern and abstract patterns like chinoiserie. "Our imagery is new and original, we have architects, engineers and production managers all working together to make our unique 3D shape. Most studios cast metal, but we work with sheets of metal that have been hammered and beaten so that they are hollow inside, and we can create massive sculptures from a single metal sheet. It's very labour intensive and demands great skill."

The DNA of Indian design is very intrictae and time consuming, Goyal notes. "For example, a sari can take months to make." The Delhi-based studio observes the same principles of design and production: his Thar console, presented by Nilufar Gallery at PAD London in 2023, took six people three months to make - "each piece had to be hand cut, hand beaten and hand welded, like a mosaic" - while his new mural, Silken Passage, "involved 20 workers over many months".

Goyal will present Silken Passage at the India Art Fair, which runs 1-4 February 2024, punctuated with parties, talks and panel discussions. It is a triumphant celebration of contemporary South Asia, and an important opportunity for India's creatives to connect. "The whole city is bouncing, it forces people to stretch themselves in terms of creativity and innovation," Goyal says. He cites Dior's partnership with Indian crafts supplier, Chanakya International, in Mumbai as a pivotal example.

"This type of important collaboration is a mutual process, like the work I did at PAD with Nina Yashar, founder of Nilufar Gallery. And a platform like the art fair helps to boost Indian art and design, and brings us closer to the international world."



Goyal admires many fellow Indian designers who will be showing at the fair, including Rooshad Shroff, an architect based in Mumbai. "He has tried many interesting things with semi precious materials like marble and has made some wonderful things for Christian Louboutin’s shop in Malaysia." Aequo, a Mumbai gallery run by prominent steel-owning family, the Jindals, is another - "they work with a French designer in India and are totally craft based" - as is Carpenters Workshop Gallery, a collectible design gallery in London's Ladbroke Hall. 

The participation of big global brands in the art fair, such as de Gournay, are of particular interest to Indian designers and makers alike. As Goyal tells me, "these international brands are beginning to realise the great potential in the Indian market as a consumer base".

Goyal finds the fair invigorating, and has created new works especially for it, "things that will appeal to art collectors rather than just interior designers". He will appear on a panel with Yannick Lintz, President of Musée Guimet, France, to discuss culture and practice alongside representatives from the MET and MoMA in New York.

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