DESIGNER VIKRAM GOYAL’S expansive double-height, white-walled loft-like studio in Noida is scattered with gargantuan brass installations — tables, consoles, mirrors, chandeliers, wall sconces — all limited-edition pieces made from sheets embossed and given shape by their signature repoussé technique (when a design is etched in relief on a metal sheet by hammering it from the back or inside).

These burnished brass objects seem to be literally spouting from every direction — some tree-like, others like a trellis, or like a chunky, long golden console (it’s literally called the ‘El Dorado Console’) with an organic 3D topography design on another. Is this art? Or is it furniture?

“When you speak about collectible design, we see ourselves as designers and artists,” says Vikram, pointing to a console. “This piece has a function, plus it’s sculptural and artistic.”

Vikram has just returned from the Dubai Art Fair, and his works now have a permanent corner in the renowned Nilufar Gallery in Milan. Once a banker with Morgan Stanley in New York and Hong Kong, the Princeton-educated Vikram’s 15-year-old venture — Vikram Goyal Studio — has been lauded internationally. He’s fresh from a showing at the U.K.’s premier design fair PAD London — the first Indian to do so, and most recently, Milan Design Week, where he showed his latest, the Archimedes Chandelier at Nilufar Gallery, which consists of hollow brass forms twisted into loops, along with the Picasso Quartet wall lamp (around €9,200).

Burnished brass objects in different shapes, including a tree, and the El Dorado and Kohinoor consoles.
Burnished brass objects in different shapes, including a tree, and the El Dorado and Kohinoor consoles.

Dreaming In Repoussé

Known over the years for his burnished sculpturesque, organic light installations and furniture, Vikram Goyal Studio’s showing at this year’s Indian Art Fair — with the striking Silken Passage, a 28 ft. x 8 ft. high mural inspired by the fabled Silk Route — got a surprise home. “We did a version of the Silken Passage as a backdrop for a royal wedding in Bahrain,” says Vikram. Post wedding, the mural found a permanent home at the Bahrain royal palace.

“When I was thinking of the Art Fair, I wanted to do something with repoussé, and didn’t want a flat wall panel” says Vikram, “I wanted something non-Indian, 3D — inspired by the Silk Route that crosses all the way from Italy to China and Japan.” So he fashioned in brass the flora and fauna of six countries — India was represented by the champa, Japan by the sakura or cherry blossom, China by bamboo, Iran by pomegranate, Italy by pines, Turkey by an olive tree, and Central Asia by date palms. The vessels are in repoussé. “The Silk Route was about the happy exchange of culture, goods and services,” he says. “It’s fitting in today’s climate of war and strife.” The mural took a few months and 15 karigars (artisans) to prepare the brass sheets, carve them out, and solder semi-precious stones on it.

One of Vikram’s largest pieces was a three-floor high wall-cladding in repoussé brass that he made for an office building in Kolkata. Replicas of his Tree of Good Fortune, with its craggy edges, first shown at the 2023 India Art Fair, can be found at his studio. As can the golden-toned bench, the Love Seat and the Rajput-painting inspired Dreamscape, whose story is based on an ancient manuscript Book of Dreams, found at City Palace, Udaipur, with its patinated gold-finish brass, with swirling forms hammered on a brass plate with the repoussé technique, to create a shimmering effect that looks like bas relief. “My pieces are almost always customised,” says Vikram, His larger pieces are priced upwards of ₹1 crore. The Balaji and Ganeshji sculptures, also shown at the India Art Fair, are popular among HNIs.

The Silken Passage, a high mural inspired by the Silk Route.
The Silken Passage, a high mural inspired by the Silk Route.

Unlike most studios that work with metal to create sculptures, shapes, and forms, Vikram Goyal Studio works with sheets of brass and repoussé. He has also launched online brand Viya Home with small tables, trays, side tables, candlestands, bowls and other home décor curios. “These are all artisanal, handmade, with an Indian narrative running through them,” says Vikram, who uses metal, cane, soft textiles, inlay work, abalone, malachite, lapis lazuli and other stones. Prices for the Viya Home range vary from ₹2,000 to ₹5 lakh.

Brassy And Bold

“I wanted to work with a legacy material, and brass is something we’ve all grown up with in terms of ritual vessels, surface decorations on doors, temples,” says Vikram. “Brass has that richness because its colour is similar to that of gold.”

Moreover, brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, is malleable, and tactile. “Normally people in metalwork deal with castings and put that into a mold,” says Vikram. “We work with sheets, literally rolls of metal, which are treated and hammered on the reverse side (the repoussé work) to create motifs in relief and forms on scale. We then weld the pieces together, and remove the welts (hollowed joinery) to create three-dimensional forms, that are hollow, or cladded onto wood, out of sheets of metal. The beauty of creation lies in our workshop.”

Repoussé work allows Vikram to bring to life the visual forms that are created like paintings from artwork on the computer — from Chinoiserie to Mughal, to modern. This is then pasted on the metal, which is then reversed, put on a bed of malleable wax. The artisans then hammer the design to create an embossed, relief work, visible on the other side.

Although Vikram himself never trained in design — he studied engineering and later, development economics, and in the early 2000s — he was one of the co-founders of beauty brand Kama Ayurveda.

At the end of the day, Vikram is showing Indian craftsmanship at a contemporary level. “I see the pieces in 3D, we do the sampling, and then it’s given to the artisan to create,” he says.

Candlestands and tables made from brass and repoussé from Vikram’s Viya Home collection.
Candlestands and tables made from brass and repoussé from Vikram’s Viya Home collection.

“Our material is Indian, and our aesthetic tends to be more decorative, given our history and our culture. I was brought up in Delhi and Rajasthan, where there’s a richness, grandeur. That’s my conditioning. That’s why I like to create large-scale pieces that defy convention,” he adds.

But at the same time, he works with an international audience in mind, where each piece is seen as a collectible piece of design. “For my colours, I try to pare down the gold, make it less bright and more bronzy,” he says. For big international galleries like The Future Perfect in the U.S., or Carpenter’s Workshop in Paris, London and New York, or even Milan’s Nilufar Gallery, the focus is on collectible design. “Art collectors don’t want a cabinet or console to look ordinary,” he says. “Why can’t it become a piece of art? Collectible design is a nice marriage between art and design.”

“Traditional craft in India is used in a contemporary way at both Vikram Goyal Studio and Viya Home,” says Vikram. “They are proudly a made-in-India craft story. When all the rich in India were running off to buy Fendi sofas, I see this shift happening.”

Down the line, would he want his pieces to be as recognisable for being Vikram Goyal. “They are already saying this is a Vikram Goyal!” he says. “Our language is unique. I may not be able to see it, but others can.”

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