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Design is about mindfulness, believes Anita Lal

As a curator and tastemaker for Christie's for an ongoing auction featuring objects from the Islamic and Indian worlds, Lal picks her favourites from the lot for Lounge

Anita Lal, founder and creative director of Good Earth, in her Delhi home 
Anita Lal, founder and creative director of Good Earth, in her Delhi home  (Good Earth)

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Anita Lal, founder and creative director of Good Earth, recently became the first ‘tastemaker’ from India for Christie’s, the leading international auction house, for their ongoing ‘Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds Including Oriental Rugs and Carpets’ auction. Christie's Tastemaker Series offers a glimpse into what inspires and animates the people whose taste influence the world of design. Previous tastemakers have included the likes of acclaimed interior architect André Fu, businesswoman and heiress Aerin Lauder, and fashion designer Peter Copping, whom Oscar de la Renta handpicked as his successor in 2014.

For this project, Lal selected her personal favourite pieces from the upcoming sale, some of which will be incorporated into three vignettes alongside selected pieces from Good Earth, which will be on display at King Street in London.

She spoke to Lounge about what dictated her choices, and about what constitutes good design:

Is there a common narrative that weaves together the lots you have chosen for this auction? Is there a story you are trying to tell through these choices?

As a design house out of India, we celebrate every cultural aspect of the subcontinent and this encompasses Vedic, Buddhist, Persian, and Mughal inspirations, as well as from lands across the famed Silk Road.

The lots that I have selected have enchanted me. The opulent and sumptuous carpets and rugs; the inspirational designs and techniques and the noble provenance across the sale are a reminder of our rich cultural past. For me the value lies only in an object’s visual and emotional appeal, and I treasure things from the smallest handmade ceramic vase to a grand sculpture or an antique carpet and I mix them all together. Islamic design vocabulary has been a source of inspiration for many collections at Good Earth and we honour it by creating products rooted in this incredible artisanal heritage in a contemporary context.

Tell us about your association with Christie's. How did this come about, and is this the first collaboration?

Christie’s invited me to be the Tastemaker for their upcoming Spring sale ‘Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds Including Oriental Rugs and Carpets’. As a Tastemaker, I had the opportunity to choose my personal favourites from the sale and curate digital vignettes with Good Earth products and objects I’ve cherished over the years, showcasing the confluence of historic artefacts and contemporary design.

A reverence for our heritage guides us in sustaining cultural and design traditions in all that we do. Christie’s shares this vision and it’s been a delight to work with them, and to have the opportunity to see these remarkable works of art which showcase skill and craftsmanship over centuries.

While this is the first collaboration of its kind that we have done with Christie’s, last year we collaborated with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York for The Heirloom Project, an initiative being led by renowned designer Madeline Weinrib. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Met’s reimagined Islamic Wing, we created an exclusive capsule collection ‘The Blooming Poppies’ to pay homage to the iconic poppy butah.

Tell us something about the individual lots. Which are your favorites, and why?

If I had to pick one item from the sale, it would be the Tabriz carpet. ‘Van Vaibhav’, which means ‘splendour of the forest’, is a leitmotif at Good Earth. Its blossoming trees with birds and animals is interpreted so exquisitely in this carpet. There is an uplifting feel of being one with nature.

A Tabriz carpet from the sale, reimagined in Lal's home in New Delhi
A Tabriz carpet from the sale, reimagined in Lal's home in New Delhi

Some other lots that deeply resonated with me included these:

A Picchvai depicting Krishna and musicians, South Rajasthan, India, 19th century; large painted textile:

This textile shows the splendour of the forest; a scene of great joy and celebration during the monsoon complete with music and dancing peacocks under a rainy cloud-lined sky’.

A Picchvai painting from the lot
A Picchvai painting from the lot

A still life with fruit and a palace garden from Qajar, Iran, first half 19th century; painting, oil on canvas:

The pomegranate is an integral motif in Eastern cultures symbolizing fertility and abundance. This painting brings to mind our latest dinner collection inspired by the Bosporus and lands around it. Featuring deep ruby pomegranates in playful arrangements across bowls and plates, it evokes gardens and promenades in a dreamlike world of wonder like this Qajar oil painting.

Still life from Iran
Still life from Iran

Motifs such as the pomegranate emerge again and again in the collection. Is this a coincidence or a deliberate choice? Why the pomegranate? We know that natural motifs go in and out of fashion -- is it the pomegranate's time after the pineapple's?

The anaar or pomegranate has long been considered sacred, and revered as a symbol of fertility, prosperity, and abundance. Pomegranates have been cultivated across Central Asia and through the Himalayas for centuries. Bursting with a trove of jewel-like seeds in hues of scarlet and deep red, the anar or pomegranate is associated with the eternity of life in religions and cultures the world over and has remained one of our enduring motifs in Good Earth designs.

For our silver anniversary last year, we partnered with acclaimed British artist Rebecca Campbell for our Dinnerware collection ‘Pomegranates and Roses’, embodying the delight of alfresco meals. The Pomegranate is an integral motif in Eastern cultures symbolizing fertility and abundance; and in Western cultures, the Rose is symbolic of love and romance – together they make a potent romantic combination.

Both the pomegranate and the pineapple are recurring leitmotifs in the Good Earth product universe and appear across our textiles, dinnerware, wallcoverings etc. In fact, the Tastemaker room at Christie’s London that Good Earth curated ahead of the Spring 2022 auction showcases our Palmyra Damascus wallpaper that features both the pomegranate as well as pineapple motif, creating an oasis of fantasy and delight.

The Palmyra Damascus wallpaper
The Palmyra Damascus wallpaper

What are some of the other leading trends you see in home design today?   

I do not follow any trends. For me true style is when it reflects a personal taste with one’s unique individualistic idea of beauty. I believe one's interior spaces must be created to suit the climate and the cultural and social ethos of that particular family. This is what gives space a unique personal character and true style.

What draws me to a design or material, apart from the obvious aesthetics, is the story it tells, the roots it belongs to and the philosophy and history behind it. The relevance of design is in bringing influence, technique and functionality together to create a product that is appreciated across geographies. I strongly believe that good design is a result of mindfulness and has to connect us in some way. 


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