Drawings, paintings, and sculptures aren’t the only means for expressing art. In India, the innocuous artistic matchbox labels are no less than collectors’ items. And they’ve been depicting art from the time of their inception.
If you’ve seen matchboxes down the ages, you’d know the mind-boggling variety of art depicted on its labels. Their depiction ranges from Gods and Goddesses to wildlife, to celebrities, and even to the absurd, such as a suited-booted monkey conversing on the phone, and much else. This artwork, it seems, is only limited by the imagination of the artist!
For some, the variety of art found on the matchboxes is so alluring that they’ve turned into its avid collectors. If the website: worldrecordholders.com is to be believed, Monica Panwar from Bikaner, India, holds the record for the largest collection of Indian matchboxes. She has 2,800 of them.
Looking at Indian matchboxes, one can easily see their unmatched distinctiveness. Its art is closer to daily life as compared to the ones produced outside India. Most foreign matchbox covers only depict the branding of cafes, pubs, restaurants, or hotel chains, whereas the Indian ones are not only more artistic but also have symbols and icons that relate to everyday life.
What’s most surprising is matchbox art is made by anonymous artists at various times in history. In fact, matchbox art truly depicts the evolution of art. While earlier matchboxes were hand-drawn, the advent of technology saw the later ones getting digitized.
The matchbox art would’ve remained confined to its connoisseurs, but for the efforts of Shreya Katuri, who hails from New Delhi, India. She has taken it upon herself to unravel the evolution of history, culture, and societal changes through matchbox illustrations. According to edexlive.com, her thorough research has uncovered the role of matchbox art in providing insight into India’s cultural changes and evolution as a society.
Katuri, an amateur matchbox collector herself, runs a popular Instagram page called ‘Art on a Box’, a project that documents and digitizes matchboxes from all over the world. Her aim is deconstructing symbols and documenting visuals found on matchboxes.
India’s Matchbox Labels