ZegnArt enlists Reena Kallat to create a site-specific artwork in Mumbai

Left: the artist holding a rubber stamp. Right: rubber stamps arranged to form a cobweb
Reena Kallat, with one of the rubber stamp-inspired building blocks for her upcoming installation in India, commissioned by ZegnArt. The artwork follows on from one of her 2012 works, 'Untitled Cobweb (knots and crossings)' (right), which will be re-imagined and reworked on an epic scale across the façade of Mumbai's Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
(Image credit: TBC)

Delhi born, Mumbai-based artist Reena Kallat has made a career out of ironising the often hair-tearing world of bureaucracy. Since her start in the mid-1990s, the key tool to this trade has been a rubber stamp. Seemingly innocuous, the pocket accessory for public officials across the globe, is a certain visual cue that you're in for a protracted, painful wait in a government-run room with bad lighting.  

Kallat loves the simple, yet heavily charged, symbolism of a rubber stamp. Whether printing its inky effects, collaging it into mosaic portraits or stacking 30,000 individual stamps (each bearing citizenship information on immigrants in Pakistan and India) as she did for her colossal 'Untitled (column)', log sculpture in 2011, the stamps instantly conjure the idea, as she puts it, 'of the individual in a sea of humanity.'

The artist's engaging social and political themes have put her on the short list of 'ones to watch' in her native India. It's no surprise, therefore, that Ermenegildo Zegna, purveyor of the world's finest wool fabrics and finished suits, cherry picked her out of the national talent pool as the first artist to ignite its ZegnArt Public project.  

One of three art initiatives under the ambitious new ZegnArt umbrella, Public commissions one artist in three emerging markets - India in 2013; Turkey and Brazil in 2014 - for a piece that will then be donated to a museum within their native home. The ambitious project aims to support both radar skipping talent as well as local institutions that are in need of a boost.

'It's ironic that in a city as big as Mumbai where there are vast spaces, there aren't many opportunities for public art,' Kallat said during her most recent visit to the Zegna headquarters in Milan, where she praised Zegna's initiative. 'Museums can play a role beyond conservation. They can help build communities where all religions and classes can come together. I want to engage the city at large.'

Luckily for her, she will, thanks to Zegna and the site-specific piece she was commissioned to create for the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai. The work, 'Untitled (Cobweb/Crossing)' will be unveiled during an exhibition on 2 March.  

Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum with landscaped gardens

The Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum is Mumbai's oldest museum, home to collections that document the applied arts and everyday life of the city in the 19th century. The Museum also has an ambitious contemporary art programme, under the direction of Tasneem Mehta

(Image credit: TBC)

A sketch of the rubber stamps and how they connect together

A sketch of the installation, named 'Untitled (Cobweb/Crossing)

(Image credit: TBC)

Numerous rubber stamps line the floor

Kallat loves the seemingly simple, yet heavily charged, symbolism of a rubber stamp - the pocket accessory for public officials across the globe - which she is recreating in wood for her new site-specific installation

(Image credit: TBC)

Past work from the artist depicting a massive column and plinth lying on their side

Past works by Kallat include 'Untitled (column)', 2011

(Image credit: TBC)

A world map coloured with string, with trails of string joining different locations

'Untitled (map drawing)' (detail), 2011

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The map of string under construction

'Untitled (map drawing)', pictured under construction

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A mosaic-style artwork

'Falling Fables', 2011

(Image credit: TBC)

Two iron gates of different designs, covered with red string

'Light leaks, winds meet where the waters spill deceit', 2008-10

(Image credit: TBC)

Two lines of coloured rubber stamps trail from a metal stand

'Colour Curtain (between shores and the seas)', 2009

(Image credit: TBC)

Left: a mosaic-style portrait. Right: detailed view of the portrait

'Synonym' (left), 2007-9, and detail view (right)

(Image credit: TBC)

JJ Martin