By Savitha Hira
Photography: Courtesy SNK Architects
Mumbai’s first Textile and Costume Gallery at the CSMVS opens to collective nods of appreciation as the curated collection sits in a breezy trendy envelope that deftly combines museology tenets with a contemporary mindset...
With a rich background of textiles in our country, and a legacy referenced from the Vedic times, the newly opened Textile Gallery draws its design inspiration from the nature of textiles itself; whilst its curatorial footprint is theme-based.
Using the warp and weft - the basic constituents of the weave, and the two most common practices in textiles - weaving and dyeing - Architects Somaya & Kalappa Consultants cull out a design vocabulary that seeks as it informs. Wrapped in a cocoon of black (that maintains neutrality, conceals essential services and controls light spread to accentuate only the exhibit cabinets), the exhibits stand out on garment donned mannequins in floor-to-ceiling glass cases, lining either side of the gallery space, commanding one’s attention in a criss-cross fashion. Colours like red, purple, blue, yellow, green and pink (common colours used in dyeing) accentuate different sections of the exhibits.
Two concept-driven areas herald the entrance and exit - better known as the ‘introductory’ and ‘interactive’ foyers – and are anointed with decorative ceilings that catch one’s eye and add to the enigmatic quotient of the gallery.
The grid ceiling in the introduction area has "open cell" thermoplastic panels - interlocking panels with no grid or structure, injection moulded in ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) with mesh. It is light, modular, long lasting and functional, allows easy, quick, modern and effective surface creation.
The Interactive area displays a dramatic fabric suspended ceiling. The fabric is fire retardant, translucent and long lasting and fixed in a way that it can be easily removed for timely maintenance. Small mock-up modules were first tested to look at the aesthetic impact, dynamism and fluidity of the fabric ceiling.
The curatorial team of the CSMVS has worked hand-in-glove with the architects, carefully looking into matters of upkeep, maintenance of RH levels in the air (50-55%); temperature and lux levels, especially as the gallery hosts a variety of textiles. “The display cases and the fabrication material were painted with 3nos. coats of Acrylic emulsion paint as a preservative measure against any harmful gases or by-products that may damage textiles. The lights used in the gallery are LED lights with UV and IR free along with the colour rendition and heat index (negligible) as desired by the curators,” informs Nandini Sampat, architect on the project.
The gallery stands out for its minimalist approach despite sustaining viewer-interest with its fair share of colour, signage and information-interaction upkeep. The most challenging part, informs Nandini has been to fit in all the exhibits in the designated space, without overcrowding or overlapping on the historical and aesthetic fronts.
Whilst the gallery displays different textiles from all over India, some of its prized possessions include block-printed cotton fabrics (popularly known as Fustat) belonging to the 14th century; jabla and topi of Sir Jamshedji Tata; and Batik silk saree designed by renowned artist Nandlal Bose of the Bengal School.