Skip to main content
India Blog

Arts & Culture

Shining new light on India's matchbox art

Step into the shoes of a matchbox art collector, explore India's buzzing bazaars, and discover India’s largest matchbox art collection in a new interactive artwork - Matchbox Momentos - by artist Harshit Agrawal. This work, developed in collaboration with the Museum of Art & Photography and Tasveer Ghar, marks the first Google Arts & Culture Artist Residency program in India.

Inspired by the classic Indian board game Moksha Patam (also known as Snakes & Ladders), Matchbox Momentos uncovers fascinating stories about matchbox art and its place in Indian culture. Kickstart your journey with an exclusive edition artwork inspired by the collection of Gautam Hemmady, one of India's most renowned collectors of matchbox art, and made by Harshit Agrawal using StyleDrop, a Google Text-Image Style AI Generation model.

Matchbox Momentos

Matchbox Mementos is available both in Hindi and English

Learn as you play

Matchbox art has a rich and vibrant history in India, capturing changes and stories of Indian society. Indian collectors called phillumenists preserve this unique heritage as a hobby, finding thrill and intrigue in hunting for these rare items. Matchbox Momentos illustrates a new playful way to connect with this archive that offers a unique insight into everyday life of erstwhile India. From industrialization, musical instruments, cinema, wildlife, flora and fauna. Visitors can collect up to 342 matchboxes from the collection Gautam Hemmady donated to the Museum of Art & Photography, and that has been digitised by Tasveer Ghar, through 19 matchbox themed journeys.

Matchbox art developed by Harshit Agrawal

About the Artist

Harshit Agrawal is passionate about connecting everyone with traditional Indian craft in new ways. He explores the application of digital technologies to create experiences that allow personalized engagement with culture. With this experiment, Harshit showcases matchbox art in a new light, “infusing algorithms with their aesthetic and adding technology’s unique flavor.”

About the partners

Tasveer Ghar: A digital archive that promotes scholarly exchange about Indian and South Asian visual culture. Tasveer Ghar digitized and archived the Gautam Hemmady collection. Tasveer Ghar said: “We are thrilled to make Gautam Hemmady's legacy even more accessible online so we can best preserve it for future generations, with new technology interventions.”

Museum of Art & Photography: Gautam Hemmady donated his collection of matchbox labels to the Museum of Art & Photography in 2021. Founder of Museum of Art & Photography, Abhishek Poddar, added: "We’re delighted with the opportunity to use cutting edge technologies that push the boundaries of how we view and make art - allowing artists to explore new forms of expression and creating new exciting pathways to access heritage for everyone. At MAP, we are constantly looking to showcase and celebrate the popular art forms from India using new technology, and are delighted to be able to build on Gautam Hemmady's legacy in this unique fashion.”

Matchbox art by Harshit Agrawal

Some of the exclusive edition artworks by Harshit Agrawal generated with the help of Google AI

Enjoy this playful showcase of how popular Indian artforms, when blended with new technologies, can contribute to breaking down the hierarchies between high and low art, and open doors to renewed interest and new interpretation. You can also discover more about these matchboxes on Google Arts & Culture with online exhibits: Little box of lights, New India in a matchbox and Lives in a matchbox.