VM in India skips the art beat
By Chanda Kumar | December 01, 2017
India is home to world renowned artists, folk & tribal art and handicrafts to the present day contemporary art forms which are unique to the land. While art is embraced in many forms through stories internationally, India’s store windows & VM seems to have skipped the art beat. Let’s understand what keeps art at bay from the VM stories here.
Art in India is going beyond the realm of art aficionados, galleries and museums today. Hotel lobbies, reception areas, resto-pubs, cafes, educational institutes, design fairs, hospitals and shopping malls too. Well, what about VM in stores? Surprisingly, seasonal window displays & in-store visual displays in India has only skimmed the enormous treasure trove of art & crafts that India offers. Yes, we do see hints of art forms enter stage as motifs, props or small design elements. Whereas, there is a plethora of art forms or art movements to be inspired from and mediums to be explored. Simple to complex forms and pocket-friendly to exorbitant art installations… art in India comes in many dimensions. At this point, you must be wondering why would visual display in stores need art? Well, it can stage merchandise with a story, add flavour, be relevant to our times and even allow shoppers to feel proud of the Indian-connect. And most importantly, evoke emotions!
In stark contrast, internationally we see art converting windows into awe-inspiring stories specially during seasonal changes or special occasions like Earth Day that tastefully complements brand philosophy too. For instance, during Earth Day in 2016, Anthropologie's window displays brought attention to wind: an important source of renewable energy, by transforming the sensory delight of a soft breeze into abstract compositions created from fabric, paper and window screening.
Staging a wide variety of subjects ranging from sustainability, films, heritage, travel, mythology, or sci-fi bestsellers, these windows stops the passersby in their track and communicate. Bringing the theme to reality, the materials used are myriad, ranging from plastic waste to corrugated paper, tulle to lights bulbs and metal.
What’s stopping us
Art is on the fringes on Indian visual merchandising because of certain issue, which include:
- The belief that art will surely overpower the brand image
- Brings a sense of exclusivity which might intimidate customers
- High costs/ budgets involved
- Manual & labour intensive
- Inability to scale up
- Inability of artists to execute within set timelines
- Hard to find & connect with artists in India
- Limited space allocated to window displays
Will the artists here … please stand up?
‘It’s tough to find these artists’ - most visual merchandisers say. Taking a more objective stand here, I can say that new art forms and artists are more accessible today than ever. Design shows, events and fairs bring in upcoming artists in major cities every month. Yes, it true that they don't market themselves, which sometimes is a challenge for connecting but on the brighter side it makes their work exclusive. This brings me to another important point, that scaling up art is challenging. While art needs to be exclusive, window stories with art installations should be targeted to flagship stores for the added affect as seen in the international market too.
Contemporary pieces work wonders
India is not just about folk & tribal art form, but has given rise to a slew of contemporary artists. Working on everything from glass, metal, concrete, ceramic and paper, the mediums are endless. With no rigid reflection of the ‘desi’ connect, contemporary art works well for all categories in modern retail landscape. In the furniture category, Urban Ladder with their first brick n mortar store interestingly unveiled The Muda Throne installation by Gunjan Gupta reminiscing the days when the humble bamboo stool dominated the Indian households.
Linking with culture & heritage
Indian-born brands, specially falling in categories of textile, home decor, designer apparel and accessories among others can create stellar brand stories by adopting VM installations relating to Indian art & craft. Taniera, the newest brand from the house of Titan, houses handloom sarees but brings out the story of craftsmanship differently with the use of elements of the loom or Chikan embroidery circles as wall-art to highlight the rich textile from each region in India.
To sum it up, we can say that artists can benefit immensely and reach a greater audience through retail spaces, while brands and retailers have the opportunity to stand out and narrate a unique story in a kaleidoscopic effect.
Independent consultant, Retail design and visual merchandising
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