CU­RAT­ING PRIME TREA­SURES

Ki­ran Nadar, Chair­per­son, Ki­ran Nadar Mu­seum of Art

MillionaireAsia India - - Contents - Cover Pho­to­graph by Anil Chawla

The rst three paint­ings that I bought were of M.F. Husain, Man­jit Bawa and Ramesh­war Broota. Each one is dis­sim­i­lar, but I had a dif­fer­ent kind of eye, and so I en­joyed col­lect­ing all those artists

Acus­to­dian de­mys­ti­fy­ing art to the com­mon man through the Ki­ran Nadar Mu­seum of Art, her phil­an­thropic ini­tia­tive in art, Ki­ran Nadar apart from be­ing a trustee of the Shiv Foun­da­tion and Chair­per­son, KNMA, is also an ac­claimed in­ter­na­tional Bridge player, a phi­lan­thropist and

avid art col­lec­tor. She has been ac­knowl­edged as a ‘hero of phi­lan­thropy’ by Forbes Asia Mag­a­zine in 2010 for launch­ing In­dia’s rst phil­an­thropic pri­vate mu­seum.

What started as an at­tempt to make her home feel more lively be­came a fas­ci­na­tion with art that turned Ki­ran Nadar into an art cognoscente. The rst piece she bought was of a male nude shown in front of a ayed car­cass, The Run­ners (1982) by Ramesh­war Broota. With grow­ing years, Nadar has in­vested in the rare works of Raja Ravi Varma, Anish Kapoor, Atul Dodiya, Mithu Sen, Navjot Altaf, Ravin­der Reddy, and Su­dar­shan Shetty, and Push­pa­mala N. amongst other noted artists. The en­trance to KNMA is graced by con­tem­po­rary artist Su­bodh Gupta’s fa­mous in­stal­la­tion, The Line of Con­trol, a mush­roomshaped work of art that ap­pears to defy grav­ity with over 1000 ves­sels sus­pended in the air. The iconic ‘ele­phant sculp­ture’ by Bharti Kher ti­tled The Skin Speaks Its Lan­guage Not Its Own, priced at ` 6.8 crore is amongst KNMA’s prized pos­ses­sions.

The ever-grow­ing col­lec­tion of the mu­seum is largely fo­cused on signicant tra­jec­to­ries. Lo­cated at South Court Mall at Saket in South Delhi, its core col­lec­tion high­lights a magnicent gen­er­a­tion of 20th cen­tury In­dian painters from the postIn­de­pen­dent decades and equally en­gages the var­ied art prac­tices of the younger con­tem­po­raries. Art afciona­dos can soak them­selves in MF Husain’s Ya­tra amidst an ar­ray of his prom­i­nent art­works, to SH Raza’s Saurash­tra and FN Souza’s Birth. In 2015, Ki­ran Nadar, bid ` 26.41 crore for this mon­u­men­tal 8ft x 4ft oil painting. Souza cre­ated Birth in 1955, and it is con­sid­ered one of his best works. For the dis­cern­ing, it would be worth­while to note that Syed Haider Raza’s sem­i­nal work Saurash­tra fetched a record ` 16.42 crore ($3,486,965) at the fa­mous Christie’s in Lon­don in 2010. Raza’s work, done in 1983, con­sid­ered a genre-dening painting, was bought by none other than Ki­ran Nadar.

The mu­seum, with its multi-faceted ini­tia­tives, helps pro­mote art in the pub­lic sphere and is work­ing to­wards en­cour­ag­ing art ap­pre­ci­a­tion. It is fo­cused on bridg­ing the gap be­tween art and the pub­lic and fos­ter­ing a mu­seum-go­ing cul­ture in In­dia. Through a vis­ual in­tel­lec­tual di­a­logue, the mu­seum aims to de­velop in­no­va­tive pro­grammes that seek ac­tive col­lab­o­ra­tions from artists as well as the pub­lic. The 34,000 square feet mu­seum space has housed sev­eral crit­i­cally-ac­claimed ex­hi­bi­tions. Screen­ings of lms, stim­u­lat­ing cu­ra­to­rial pro­grammes, and cu­rated walks form an in­te­gral part of the mu­seum’s ever-ex­pand­ing itin­er­ary. The em­i­nent art col­lec­tor, who has 4,500 art­works in her kitty, talks about her early days, her tryst with art, her vi­sion with re­spect to her cre­ative ini­tia­tive and more in this ex­clu­sive tete-e tete.

Your early days and grow­ing up years.

I went to a board­ing school; the Lawrence School, Sanawar and did my col­lege ed­u­ca­tion from Mi­randa House in Delhi.

Throw some light on your as­so­ci­a­tion with NIIT?

At NIIT I got an op­por­tu­nity to work with some bril­liant peo­ple like Ra­jen­dra Pawar and Vi­jay Thadani.

When did you re­alise that art was your call­ing…can we say what started as a pas­sion be­came a full-time vo­ca­tion?

Af­ter work­ing with NIIT for a while, I took a break be­cause my daugh­ter Roshni was very small, and didn’t have enough time to do every­thing. It dur­ing this time that I started play­ing com­pet­i­tive Bridge. It be­came an in­sep­a­ra­ble part of my life. About four or ve years later, we de­cided to build our home.

I was in­deed in­ter­ested in art, but it wasn’t a pas­sion at that stage. I de­cided to buy some art for the house. I rst bought enough for our wall space. And, then I had no wall space, so I started buy­ing and putting it in Shiv’s (Nadar, Founder and Chair­man of HCL and Ki­ran’s hus­band) ofce. Given that I was still col­lect­ing, I felt that I should do some­thing. But, it was a grad­ual process of re­al­is­ing that I wanted to build a mu­seum. It took at least 6-7 years be­fore I re­ally had the thought of build­ing a mu­seum. The in­spi­ra­tion to a large ex­tent, was look­ing at var­i­ous col­lec­tives in Amer­ica who have put their col­lec­tion into pub­lic spa­ces. Now, most of the mu­se­ums in Amer­ica are pri­vate-owned. That’s how the jour­ney started. If I had known what it en­tailed maybe I would not have gone in be­cause it is a very difcult as­sign­ment in In­dia. Its about ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple at ev­ery level… maybe in Kolkata or Mum­bai there are peo­ple who are much more in­ter­ested art than they are in Delhi. There­fore, it’s been quite a task.

How would you dene art?

Art is some­thing which is in the eye of the be­holder. To dif­fer­ent peo­ple art trans­mits in a dif­fer­ent way. The vo­cab­u­lary is not the same for ev­ery­body. But, what I feel is, in the In­dian con­text, we have a large her­itage of an­tiq­ui­ties, minia­ture paint­ings, rock-cut sculp­tures like the Ajanta, El­lora, and other signicant her­itage mon­u­ments, which are ab­so­lutely phe­nom­e­nal. We have a great her­itage in art. It’s im­por­tant that peo­ple are aware of it and that we as a mu­seum do some­thing to keep this knowl­edge ow­ing.

Your favourite artist/s in In­dia and abroad.

There are too many to name any one in par­tic­u­lar. Also, be­cause dif­fer­ent artists have dif­fer­ent things to give. In In­dia, let’s say, Raja Ravi Varma and MF Husain are quite dis­parate but both are great artists.

Who has been your in­spi­ra­tion in terms of art col­lec­tion?

There were a lot of peo­ple who I felt were good col­lec­tors… we have the var­i­ous art gal­leries and then, of course, there were doyens of In­dian like MF Husain. The rst three paint­ings that I bought were of Husain, Man­jit Bawa and Ramesh­war Broota. Each one is dis­sim­i­lar, but I had a dif­fer­ent kind of eye, and so I en­joyed col­lect­ing all those artists.

How did the idea of KNMA orig­i­nate? How were the early days of set­ting up a mu­seum?

We keep cu­rat­ing. We started at the HCL premises in Noida, where we have a space for art­works. We started with an ex­hi­bi­tion called Open Doors, which was held seven years ago. Within a year of host­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion, we bought the space where KNMA, now, ex­ists. We felt that since it was in Delhi, more so in a mall, the foot­falls would be bet­ter.

If you could give us an idea of the col­lec­tions that adorn your mu­seum?

The col­lec­tion ranges from the younger con­tem­po­raries to leg­ends. It starts with Raja Ravi Varma and spans a vast spec­trum of artists. We have the whole gamut of In­dian art.

Can we say KNMA is a con­flu­ence of both ru­ral and folk art as well as art­works of elite urban artists?

Un­for­tu­nately, we don’t have folk art. That is an area that we haven’t col­lected. We’ll see. At the mo­ment we want to con­cen­trate on the ar­eas that we are in­volved with. Folk art is a to­tally dif­fer­ent line and we haven’t ven­tured there. Maybe go­ing for­ward, we will see.

Tell us about your tryst with bi­en­nales and also the his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant art­works ac­quired by you?

In In­dia the Kochi-Muziris Bi­en­nale, which just saw its third edi­tion in 2016, is a won­der­ful place for art. We had an ex­hi­bi­tion at the bi­en­nale last year. It has a col­lat­eral event where we show­cased our ex­hi­bi­tion of Ker­ala artists. It re­ceived a lot of ap­pre­ci­a­tion. How­ever, we have not par­tic­i­pated in any of the bi­en­nales abroad. It is un­for­tu­nate that at the Venice Bi­en­nale, which is such a ma­jor event, In­dia does even have a pavil­ion. Ev­ery small coun­try, has a pavil­ion there. And, In­dia which is such an im­por­tant coun­try, where art is so im­por­tant, it has not been con­sid­ered nec­es­sary to have a pavil­ion. This is a big is­sue.

KNMA has achieved the ini­ti­a­tion of sev­eral con­tin­u­ums like outreach, art ed­u­ca­tion, work­shops and sym­po­siums. How ex­actly are you en­gaged with such en­deav­ours?

Well, of course we want to get peo­ple en­gaged with art and in­crease the foot­falls. We have a great outreach in schools. We have work­shop for kids and an outreach pro­gramme with Khir­kee vil­lage. have sym­po­siums with ev­ery­body who par­tic­i­pates in our show. We now one talk on ar­chi­tec­tural space ti­tled ‘Delhi: Build­ing the Mod­ern’ cu­rated by Roobina Kar­ode in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ram Rah­man and em­i­nent ar­chi­tects as part of the dis­cus­sion.

What pur­pose, ac­cord­ing to you, does art serve in so­ci­ety?

Art has a great her­itage which peo­ple should be aware of. Un­for­tu­nately, in­ter­est in art is very lim­ited. In Qatar I came across an In­dian cou­ple at a mu­seum. On be­ing asked if they had vis­ited any mu­seum in Mum­bai, the place they came from, they replied in the neg­a­tive. I wanted to know why they were vis­it­ing a mu­seum at Qatar whereas they had not vis­ited any mu­seum in Mum­bai, which has so much to of­fer in terms of art to which they had no an­swer. When we go abroad, we try and visit all the mu­se­ums. Whereas we have so much to see in In­dia but don’t take same in­ter­est.

Which is your favourite art­work at KNMA?

I have 4,500 art­works and its very dif­fi­cult to choose. Like Saurash­tra was very im­por­tant when I got it...the Birth is very im­por­tant and so is the

Butcher… all my Souza col­lec­tions, Husain’s Ya­tra is very beau­ti­ful... the vil­lage scenes are beau­ti­ful… also, I have some Ravi Varma’s col­lec­tions.

What is your mes­sage for school chil­dren and youth with re­spect to art in In­dia... how ex­actly should we look at art pro­mote the same?

What we need to do is that rstly art should be made a part of the cur­ricu­lum… they have art as part of the co-cur­ricu­lum but it should ac­tu­ally be a part of the cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity. And, chil­dren should be en­cour­aged to take up art not just as a hobby but even look at it as a pro­fes­sion… painting and in­ter­est in art can be some­thing that can stay with them for the rest of their lives. We would like to en­cour­age so that’s why we do this outreach so that some chil­dren would dis­cover some un­der­stand­ing of art and do it for­ever.

Do you think as an art com­mu­nity in In­dia, we still are far too re­liant on the old masters and not dis­cov­er­ing new ones?

I think there are a lot of younger artists be­ing dis­cov­ered. In 2008, when there was the mar­ket crash, the works of new artists, saw a great fall. Those lev­els have not reached any­where near the price lev­els that they were be­fore the mar­ket crash. Peo­ple got their ngers burnt very badly. Peo­ple who were in­ter­ested in buy­ing art, re­alised that some­thing they bought for ` 100 was not worth even ` 10, re­sult­ing in a loss of in­ter­est in buy­ing art. So, con­tem­po­rary art cer­tainly faded away as an as­set. The works of masters also went down but they came back to the same lev­els as they were, in fact they are higher than they were 9-10 years back. So, one has to un­der­stand that the art­works of masters have come back but con­tem­po­rary work hasn’t and there­fore, more in­ter­est has to be put in into the con­tem­po­rary art­work which is im­por­tant for younger artists to grow.

The Butcher rep­re­sents the apex of the raw, ex­pres­sion­ist style. It is in­flu­enced by works of El Greco and Goya plus the Ro­manesque paint­ings and Cat­alo­nian fres­cos

MAQ­BOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1913-2011) Un­ti­tled, Oil on can­vas,1956

M.F. HUSAIN IN EX­HI­BI­TION SPACE (NGMA, NEW DELHI): Black and white pho­to­graph 1992-93 Col­lec­tion Parthiv Shah

PUSHPMALA N. The Navarasa Suite Sringara, Hasya, Bhib­hat­sya, Karuna, Shanti, Veera, Adb­huta, Rau­dra, Bhayanaka, From the se­ries: Bom­bay Photo Stu­dio 2003

Fran­cis New­ton Souza, Nude with a Fruit Oil on Board 1958

FRAN­CIS NEW­TON SOUZA (four works on the left) Un­ti­tled Pen and Ink on pa­per 1952 Col­lec­tion: DAG Mod­ern; Un­ti­tled (Por­trait of a Man be­fore build­ing) Pen and Ink on pa­per 1955 Col­lec­tion: DAG Mod­ern; Man in Tu­nic Pen­cil on pa­per 1954; Un­ti­tled Pen on Pa­per 1959; (On the right) Un­ti­tled Pen, Ink and Graphiti pa­per 1954-67

Man & Woman Grind­ing Their Teeth by Fran­cis New­ton Souza, a mon­u­men­tal painting from 1957

FRAN­CIS NEW­TON SOUZA (1924-2002) THE BUTCHER OIL ON SATIN 1962

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