Rajeev Sethi (b. 1949)
A designer, curator and scenographer, Rajeev Sethi has conceptualised and presented several noteworthy exhibitions in India and abroad.
Born in 1949 in New Delhi, Sethi completed his graduation from the St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. He received a scholarship to study graphic art in Paris and, while there, he worked under British artist Stanley William Hayter and renowned American designers, Charles and Ray Eames. He also worked at the studio of the French designer Pierre Cardin on projects such as the Laboratoire d’Idées (Laboratory of Ideas) and Des Indes Modernes, an exhibition for which he curated objects from India as well as designed a few exhibits himself.
After his return to India, Sethi joined Pupul Jayakar in her work in the handicrafts and handloom sectors, and was integral in the planning of the Festivals of India, which were held in several countries during the 1980s and the early 1990s. He presented the exhibition Aditi: A Celebration of Life – which featured traditional art from India alongside folk art performances – in the UK in 1982 and in the USA in 1985. In 1985, he was also the advisor for Mela! An Indian Fair as a part of the Smithsonian Museum’s Festival of American Folklife.
Sethi also conceptualised Golden Eye (1985–86) at the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, under which Indian craftspeople collaborated with international designers such as Mario Bellini, Ivan Chermayeff, Milton Glaser and Mary McFadden. In 1986, he organised Apna Utsav in New Delhi, a festival that featured four thousand artists from across the country.
Sethi is also known for his work as a scenographer. He designed the Basic Needs Pavilion at Expo 2000, a world exhibition held in Hannover, Germany. He was the exhibition designer for the Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival, held in 2002 at the National Mall, Washington DC. More recently, he designed and curated the Jaya He GVK New Museum, which opened in 2014 at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai.
In 1995, Sethi founded the not-for-profit organisation, Asian Heritage Foundation, which conducts initiatives to aid artisans from around the country. He is also a founder-member of INTACH and was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1986 for his contributions to Indian art and design. In 2001, he also received the German honour of Order of Merit of the State of Lower Saxony for his work at the Hannover exhibition.
At the time of writing, Sethi lives in New Delhi.
Chowdhury, Samrat. “Rajeev Sethi honoured with Order of Merit of the State of Lower Saxony,” India Today, September 10, 2001. https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/your-week/story/20010910-rajeev-sethi-honoured-with-order-of-merit-of-the-state-of-lower-saxony-776509-2001-09-10
Hindustan Times. “Cardin’s innovation was across disciplines: Rajeev Sethi.” December 31, 2020. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/cardin-s-innovation-was-across-disciplines-rajeev-sethi/story-YssBwKYqDqk6Me8FmrOCLJ.html
India Today. “Rajeev Sethi's exhibition Aditi receives rapturous responses in London.” September 30, 1982. https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/society-the-arts/story/19820930-rajeev-sethi-exhibition-aditi-receives-rapturous-responses-in-london-772204-2013-09-20
Kannan, K. “’Basic Needs’ pavilion a draw at Hanover.” The Hindu, August 24, 2000. https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-miscellaneous/tp-others/basic-needs-pavilion-a-draw-at-hanover/article28039950.ece
Padmanabhan, Anil. “Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Delhi-based Asian Heritage Foundation recreates Silk Route.” India Today, July 22, 2002. https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/international/story/20020722-smithsonian-folklife-festival-delhi-based-asian-heritage-foundation-recreates-silk-route-794783-2002-07-22
Rangachari, Gayatri S. “Ambitious Art on Display at Mumbai’s New Airport Terminal.” The New York Times, January 15, 2014. https://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/ambitious-art-on-display-at-mumbais-new-airport-terminal/
Siddiqui, Saba. “Storied designer contemplates life of retirement, but is still full of energy.” The Sunday Guardian, June 19, 2011. http://www.sunday-guardian.com/artbeat/storied-designer-contemplates-life-of-retirement-but-is-still-full-of-energy
Small, Lawrence. “On the road.” Smithsonian Magazine, June, 2002. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/on-the-road-64325484/
Smithsonian Institution. “The Golden Eye: An International Tribute to the Artisans of India.” Accessed August 30, 2021. https://www.si.edu/exhibitions/golden-eye-international-tribute-artisans-india-event-exhib-1543
Smithsonian Folklife Festival. “Mela! An Indian Fair.” Accessed August 30, 2021. https://festival.si.edu/past-program/1985/mela-an-indian-fair