W Power 2024

Viraj Khanna: The accidental artist

Viraj Khanna, son of legendary fashion designer Anamika Khanna, studied business administration. But Covid-19 opened up another path to showcase his creativity

Jasodhara Banerjee
Published: Feb 16, 2024 11:29:18 AM IST
Updated: Feb 19, 2024 02:33:42 PM IST

Viraj Khanna: The accidental artistViraj Khanna Image: Amit Verma; Directed By: Kapil Kashyap Outfit: Anamika Khanna; Styled By: Aarushi Gaur

Viraj Khanna | 28

Viraj Khanna did not plan to become an artist. Coming from a business family, he studied business administration at the University of South California in Los Angeles, and joined his family business in the fashion industry (his mother Anamika Khanna’s eponymous fashion label), where he handled marketing and management. But then, the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and shut down most business activities. In order to keep the social media handles active, he decided to make collages to post on Instagram. “It was the first instance in my life that I took up doing something creative,” he recalls. Scanning through and cutting up about 400 fashion magazines, he created collages and figures from the paper cutouts and shared them on Instagram.

Among those who saw and appreciated his artwork was Somak Mitra, director of Gallery Art Exposure in Kolkata, who liked Khanna’s work enough to immediately suggest that he do a show. “I took it up as a challenge to put up the show within six months, with sculptures and paintings at The Loft, in Kolkata. All my works were sold out even before the show opened,” he says. Subsequently he did a show in Mumbai in March 2022, and another in Delhi. Currently, he is part of a multi-artist show in Los Angeles.

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“He started with these very nice collages, and what attracted me to his work was the fact that it was not structured. He was not creating out of some preconceived notions, but some sort of freedom. That was his biggest strength,” says Mitra. “I suggested that he could convert his collages into sculptures for the first show, and now he has moved into textiles. I have two shows with him, and he has done more, and with every exhibition, he is evolving, and is not sticking to one practice because it is tried and tested.”

Viraj Khanna: The accidental artist

Khanna’s artworks started with a lot of fibre-glass sculptures, and has moved on to textiles and embroidery. “I initially kept away from textiles to keep my identities as an artist and as a fashion designer separate, but I think over time this is what has remained with me and I am able to express my artistic vision much better through this medium,” he explains. He recently did his first museum show, which was part of a two-month long exhibition called Sutr Santati at Mumbai’s NGMA, curated by textile revivalist Lavina Baldota. Khanna is now studying for a Masters in Fine Arts from the School of the Arts Institute in Chicago.

(This story appears in the 23 February, 2024 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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