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Art From Us MUSEUM GUIDE : Calico Museum of Textiles

Art From Us presents a must-see Museum Guide daily, where we showcase specific artworks in specific museums – from across the globe. Today, for Art From Us Museum Guide the spotlight is on the Calico Museum of Textiles.

For Museum Guide, we bring to you a selection of Museums and specific spaces, rooms, exhibits and hangs within them that we find impressive, highlighting works from the collection that are worth exploring and knowing.

Calico Museum, Museum Guide No. 743

The Calico Museum of Textiles was founded by Gautam Sarabhai, a scion of the famous Sarabhai family. The collection takes us through the story of India through different weaving techniques, textiles and stiching patterns. Highlighting traditions that are 4000 years old.

An Illustrious Family

Ambalal Sarabhai and Sarladevi Sarabhai were prominent mill owners from the time of India’s Independence. Amabalal Sarabhai set up several renowned enterprises and had deep philanthropic interests and education. Each of their children went onto excel in the fields that they chose. Suhrid, Gautam, Mridula, Vikram, Leena, Gira and Gita – each of the children were at the helm of starting small revolutions that would later become well known.

The decade that followed independence in 1947 witnessed a surge of innovative ideas that came together to build an independent nation.

The story of the Calico Museum is intricately ties to the story of India. With many layers and numerous twists and turns, successes and trials, the Sarabhai Family has time and again come together and contributed to the rich fabric of India.

Setting Up of the Calico Museum

Today we speak of Gautam Sarabhai who joined Calico Mills (Ahmedabad) in 1940 at the age of 22. He was a keen industrialist with entrepreneurial talent and took over from his father in 1945. His brother Vikram Srabhai was involved in developing India’s space program. He founded of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) – the cradle of space sciences in India. He  was a scientist, physicist and astronomer and was honoured with the Padma Bhushan (1966) and Padma Vibhushan (1972) posthumously.

Gautam Sarabhai wholeheartedly engaged himself in developing india’s textile program. Not only did he expand the textile mills, he diversified the group into chemicals, plastics and fibres, harnessing modern technology to meet the challenge of the future.

Gautam Sarabhai not only looked after the Calico Mills but also helped start the National Institute of Design along with his sister Gira in 1961, India’s premier institute for design technology.

Inspired by philosopher and art historian Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy, that he set up the initiative of the Calico Museum, also assisted by his sister Gira sarabhai. The museum that celebrated the traditional textile of India was  inaugurated by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru.

The Art of Textiles

The Calico Museum looks into the presentation of the rich heritage that our culture has to offer. But it does so in a non self conscious manner and walks away from the conventional design of displays at Museums. There is an encouragement to see this rich heritage and witness it as a whole and not in segregated parts. This is a departure from a parochial approach to artistic pieces.

There are three special aspects about the display – firstly: it is modelled on early exhibition design techniques, making it modular, light-weight and flexible. Allows room for a seamless and organic matrix of textures, colours and images, in which object succeeds object, section follows section, almost without a break, one thing leading and merging into another.

Secondly: the exhibits remain at inviting proximity to the viewer. Breaking away from artificial distances. Allowing only the protective coverings necessary in a traditional, non-climate-controlled environment.

Third: notably, nothing is singled out for special attention, the formality of objects is redundant in this space. Additionally, there are no predetermined angles necessarily from which to view the displays.

It is a point to be noted that the textiles on display are priceless, national treasures and a part of our history. They have been researched and published by renowned scholars and specialists who are front runners in their respective fields of study on their subjects.

Sarabhai Foundation – Calico Museum of Textiles
The Retreat, Opp. Underbridge, Shahibag,
Ahmedabad-380004, Gujarat, India.
The museum can be called between 10.30 am and 1.45 pm, 2.45 pm and 6.00 pm. (except Wednesdays and Bank Holidays)

Want to know more about this Museum and others, explore our Archive for Museum Guide

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