For centuries, India has been a source of creative inspiration for the world. Today, it stands at the precipice of reshaping its role in the global realm of art and culture.
In line with PM Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Virasat bhi Vikas bhi,’ the Government of India launched the Indian Art, Architecture & Design Biennale 2023 (IAADB 2023). This first-of-its-kind exhibitions took place at the historic Red Fort Complex from 8th to 15th December 202, which also included panel discussions, workshops, and an art bazaar.
“Forums like India Art, Architecture and Design Biennale are vital to celebrating and nurturing our rich cultural heritage” – Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
IAADB 2023 features a series of artworks and installations spanning 1 lakh square feet of active programming space. The Biennale covers over 250 acres of the Red Fort complex and will be on display for 115 consecutive days, i.e. till 31st March 2024.
Following the success of the International Museum Expo & Festival of Libraries, the Ministry of Culture presented the artistic exploration of India’s rich heritage & culture to the world through this exhibit. The government is proactively engaged in formalizing global cultural endeavors and constructing a modern framework, drawing inspiration from events conducted in cities such as Venice, São Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, and Dubai.
The 7 Distinctive Themes of IAADB 2023
The Biennale has been organized around seven uniquely conceptualized themes with curations by distinguished personalities. These exhibitions are designed in both physical and digital forms for an immersive experience.
Moreover, each exhibition is accompanied with a well-researched compendium curated by experts into seven special volumes.
‘Pravesh: Rite of Passage’ – curated by Aditya Arya, this exhibit transforms the concept that ‘behind every door lies a story’ into a creative exhibit. It explores the doors and gates of India, negotiating these creative spaces.
‘Bagh-e-Bahar: Gardens as universe’ – a vibrant exhibit showcasing 48 gardens of India. It reflects the diverse natural rich cultural heritage in the collection of gardens. Its centerpiece ‘This Feild of Poppies’ builds a narrative of sustainability with creative innovation using scrap metal.
A display of scrap metal poppies within the Bagh-e-Bahar pavilion (Photo Credit: Anchjita Nair)
‘Sampravah: A confluence of communities’ – curated by Ratish Nanda, a heritage activist & educator with his mentor Vikramjit Roopraiis gives insight into the traditional water management systems at A2 barracks. It showcases models of various famous step-wells in India.
In alignment with this theme, Diana Kellogg, a New York-based architect and artist, highlighted her award-winning design of the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls High School in Jaisalmer. During her keynote address, she emphasized, ‘India’s time-tested techniques for water conservation and inventive cooling practices will be essential to the global effort,’ and the presence of the stepwell at the site served as inspiration for her sustainability-driven piece.
‘Sthapatya: Anti-fragile algorithm’ – curated by Amit Pasricha, an architectural photographer, the exhibit throws light on the core of Indian society, repositories of culture, religion, and lifestyle. The masterpiece of this theme came straight from Indore and stands central with its rustic scrape look. Metal scrape is used to redefine the majestic Nagara-style Lakshmana Temple as an icon of the diverse landscape of Indian temple architecture.
‘Vismaya: Creative crossovers’ – curated by Ariadna A. Garreta & Dr. Shikha Jain, this exhibit displays the marvels of post-independence architectural wonders.
‘Deshaj: Bharat x Design’ – curated by Designer Anubhav Nath, it is a salute to the country’s indigenous crafts with a lifesize painting of folk art by nearly 20 tribal artists from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar. It is a captivating visual narrative of Indian paintings and motifs with manifold traditions.
‘Samatva: Shaping the built’ – curated by Swati Janu, the founder of Social Design Collaborative, pays homage to the centenary year of Urmila Eulie Chowdhury, a trailblazing Indian architect who collaborated extensively with Le Corbusier in the planning of Chandigarh. This theme serves as a heartfelt tribute to her enduring legacy, aiming to recognize and celebrate the significant contributions of women to Indian art and architecture.
Swati Janu invited onlookers to explore the ‘Studio’ where some of India’s well-known women architects’ workplaces have been recreated, “showing not just their work but also their process”.
It invited enthusiasts & young minds especially, to a week long conversation series with women architects from around India where they discussed their individual practices with a focus on the intersection between gender and design.
Empowering the Future
In collaboration with the Council of Architecture and the National Association of Students of Architecture, India, the IAADB presented a parallel event called Samunnati 2023, a Student Biennale, which was hosted at the Lalit Kala Academy from Dec 9 – Dec 15 2023. The exhibition included seven research catalogs focusing on themes that showcased India’s noteworthy projects and traditions, spanning both pre- and post-independence eras.
The event became even more promising with the inauguration of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Centre for Design (ABCD) by the honorable Prime Minister himself. Strengthening the vision of ‘vocal for local’, ABCD aims to empower the artisan communities with new designs and innovations. Moreover, a dedicated space to practice their culture and talent will become an act of revival & preservation of the priceless heritage art forms.
Activities & Programs
The Biennale included daily keynote addresses from global artists, architects, and designers, along with cultural programs, panel discussions, workshops, and an art bazaar.
The program aimed to foster a comprehensive conversation among various participants such as artists, architects, designers, photographers, collectors, connoisseurs, curators, art professionals, gallerists, academic institutions, researchers, students, and youth.
This initiative seeks to enhance cultural dialogue and offer diverse avenues and opportunities to all those involved.
The capital has witnessed a massive increase in its footfall as the most awaited event of the year presents itself. The event has encountered not only students & creative enthusiasts, but has caught the attention of the common public.
Citizens have reviewed the exhibition as ‘well curated creative interpretation’ and ‘a great culmination of art, architecture & design put together’. Steps taken by the Indian government towards promoting & supporting the creative hands this year, continues to prove its competitive nature in the global landscape of art, architecture & design.