The familiar walls of Chennai’s Apparao Galleries are opulent today; a delight to the eye of the esthete.
Look to the right and you’ll find a pure sterling silver floating alligator, its head, torso, and tail each a separate piece. To the left, you’ll find an eclectic set of jewelry (earrings and necklaces) made entirely from the forewings of naturally expired beetles found in abundance in Thailand’s tamarind trees. Its metallic blue-green shine traces the line of the eye: a collector’s item, without a doubt. A lion sculpture made from a piece of sandalwood preserving its natural shape, and completed with sterling silver, has unmistakable Asian influences.
In the first solo exhibition in the city of Thai home décor, jewelry and accessories brand Lotus Arts de Vivre, titled Tales of Asia, held in collaboration with Heeramaneck & Son and Apparao, every piece is a collectible just as you envisioned. the founder of the brand. Rolf von Bueren, who immigrated to Thailand from Germany in the 1960s and has called the Asian nation home ever since.
It is well known that Rolf is a treasure trove of stories. An avid and well-traveled art collector, Rolf’s love of Thailand is anchored in the nation’s impeccable craftsmanship and appreciation of art. “There is nothing more luxurious than what we cannot have, what seems to be out of reach”: this realization is what led to the start of Lotus.
The beginnings of the von Bueren family were quite humble. After World War II, when they immigrated to Thailand from Germany in 1962, they were armed only with an appreciation for skilled craftsmanship. It is this aspiration to covet what seems unattainable that slowly led to Lotus, which began as a mere hobby business. The brand owes its success to the natural resources, crafts, traditions and customs of Thailand and the people of the country.
In a Zoom call from Bangkok, Rolf says: “The West has contributed very little to civilization: wine, bread, opera, classical music… While all good things, like silk, pearls, rubies, come from the East.” . In medieval times, after the West discovered the route to eastern countries like India, all the courts of Europe collected things that they themselves did not have, such as fossilized shark teeth thinking they were dragons’ claws. They were called the ‘miraculous chambers of wonders’. This was the basis of all Western museums.”
Rolf, who has collected art, jewelry, and functional pieces for the past 40 years, misses no opportunity to remind the world of Asia’s wealth of resources, crafts, and fine arts.
He continues: “Thailand has an active and fully funded craft support system, paid for by the royal house. Most of our workers come from that source of education.” Thais have exceptionally good hands, says the esthete-turned-businessman. They begin knotting and weaving work very early in life, as children. And so, his hands are very agile. “We are lucky to live among people like that for 40 years,” he adds.
India is no stranger to Rolf – he travels in and out frequently in search of the country’s crafts, resources and craftsmanship which is often reflected in the brand’s products. He recalls: “Our first trip as a married couple was to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), and there I bought my first Jamawar [silk] and now I have a substantial collection of 170 pieces.”
Rolf loves the Indian mind and admits to being “fascinated by anything Indian.” He continues: “There is this Indian spiritual coverage all over Asia, reaching as far as Japan and China.” This has greatly inspired some of his collections. Perhaps, the burlwood Happy Monk is a physical manifestation of that.
Later this year, he plans to take an extensive trip to Varanasi to investigate textile traditions and crafts through visits to factories, such as the one that makes peacock-feather cloth sourced from longtime fans of Hare Krishna travelers.
Ask Rolf, after more than 40 years of collecting, what his most prized possession is, and he’s ready with the answer: “My wife, who is Thai, has a 15-pound wedding sari from Lucknow that is sewn with emeralds and Basra”. pearls This type of item cannot be measured or priced, it is a memory, a rarity…”
Tales of Asia is on view until January 31 at Apparao Galleries, Nungambakkam. On January 30, at 4:00 pm, a talk by Deepti Sashidharan on jewelery will be held in museums across India.