“I don’t like the confines of a gallery; it can be very limiting. I prefer to invite people to where I live — the home I decorated myself with my own art. It’s the best way to offer people a clear picture of how their homes can be decorated,” says Gayatri Sekhri, artist, curator, and all-round creative personality. As we meet her for a candid chat in her gorgeous home set amid the expansive greenery of Delhi’s Chattarpur Farms, the veracity of this bold statement shines through every wall and surface.
Inviting potential clients into one’s private domain may seem an unusual move. Yet, for centuries, artists’ studios have thrived in their personal spaces. It also makes perfect sense for Sekhri’s artistic practice, which meets at the intersection between art and interior design. “I do create art, but I also help people curate their homes with art. I started this dual service of being an artist and interior designer when I saw a huge gap in the market. My clients just show me a corner in their homes — a wall, a courtyard, or any other space — and I design something specific to that space,” she explains.
Creative people often don many hats, yet Sekhri is the very definition of a millennial multihyphenate. She started her career as a corporate lawyer in a cushy job but switched when she felt a yearning to do something inventive. Hence, in 2014, she launched a design, build and turnkey venture with her husband Ronak and brother-in-law Akshay, Pomegranate Design, of which she is the Creative Head. Before long, her work was noticed in the right circles, and she started receiving requests to create large-scale installations for public spaces like hospitals and corporate offices.
“My first couple of installations were for Max Super Speciality Hospital in Saket and Apollo Hospital. The brief was to create something happy because the people who visit hospitals are usually in distress,” she shares. “Soon after I created these works, I was approached by corporates to create art that represented their company’s vision and ideology. I enjoy the challenge of bringing people’s ideas to life. It’s become second nature to me. I see a space and I can envision what has to be done with it, within minutes. I either sketch it out, or we do a 3D rendering to show our clients, so they are not surprised with the final result. Most importantly, we work with the client. It’s a collaboration in a way, so there can be a little bit of them in the art.”
One of her personal favourites is the recent lifesize installation she created for the Havells India corporate office. The brief was to create a sculpture that exudes knowledge, encourages employees, reflects growth, and marks achievements. The result was an enormous stack of books flanked by human figures and topped with a gigantic bulb — the former reflective of the company’s guiding principles and the latter representing its star product.
The tangible recreation of an idea is clearly Sekhri’s forte, and nowhere is this fact more visible than in her own home. As we walk through her spacious marbled corridors, everything from the tones, colours and materials used, to the strategic elevations that separate spaces, seem to be designed for the express purpose of displaying her art.
Sekhri’s abode is decorated with the best of her work and has an enduring appeal. Pieces from her ‘Tall Tales’ collection, which she created soon after becoming a mother, show joyous children playing with simple objects like kites and balloons. These are generously scattered everywhere and add a cheerful vibe to the home. Her ‘Tree of Life’, made with fibre and aluminium, is another striking piece. However, it’s her ‘Climbing Man’ sculpture mounted high on a wall that truly commands the living area. It shows a man at different stages of climbing a wall, metaphorically representing human struggles at varied stages of life. She describes this as one of her seminal works.
“I’m often inspired by things around me and the situation I am in at that moment. So with the pandemic, I changed the direction of my art. Though I began by creating large art installations, during this time, I moved to creating smaller, quirkier pieces, which could easily be bought online and fit into private spaces. This was a conscious decision to appeal to young collectors who perhaps have more modest budgets,” she declares. “Around three years ago, I noticed a rising demand for works of art that were more affordably priced, something that was beautiful but not necessarily bespoke. During the pandemic, I revamped my website because I noticed a boost in online sales, and I wanted to capitalise on that market.”
With this change in direction, Sekhri moved to creating smaller works that were hugely inspired by pop culture. Her ‘Supremacy Series’ is one such collection of colourful busts of three distinctive yet prominent global leaders — Mahatma Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth II, and Nelson Mandela — signifying the interplay between power, authority, and status. Other pieces from her latest coffee table collection include sculptures of iconic fashion and food culture memorabilia. One can choose from Birkin bags, Moët & Chandon champagne bottles, video game consoles and McDonald’s takeaway bags, among other items.
This shift in her work is representative of an overall transition in the world of art. She explains: “Earlier, art was considered the domain of older people with refined taste and money to spare. It was a rich man’s luxury. Now, younger collectors want to buy art that is meaningful but also has resale value.”
This is why Sekhri chooses to work with fibre resin, bronze, and steel, with fibre being her favourite owing to its lightweight flexibility and easy manoeuvrability. She remarks that though bronze has a lovely effect and is capable of showing every fold of the skin and texture, it’s heavy and cumbersome to install. Bronze sculptures also command higher prices, so she encourages her clients to commission large sculptures in fibre and smaller ones in bronze.
As an artist who’s forged her own creative path, Sekhri believes in the power of social media and word-of-mouth. She also advises new artists not to feel intimidated by the art world, as there’s an audience for every type of work. Taking the example of her own practice, she ends with, “I help people plan their art purchases. It can be an intimidating process to do up a home that’s a completely blank canvas, especially as new urban developments are being planned with walls and spaces specifically made for art. I’m aware that filling one’s space with art requires a lot more than just picking an artwork of which you like the look. The purpose of art is to enhance the existing space, and I help plan this. People show me pictures and plans for their space and leave the rest to me. My job is to breathe life into their vision through art.”
Photography: Abhishek Khandelwa; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Makeup: Saaba Arora
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s July 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!