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Art collector Kiran Nadar on making art accessible today and opening a new space in the capital

At the heart of any museum or gallery space is the notion of giving back to society, preserving treasures of the past and nurturing young artists. The Kiran Nadar Museum has been doing so successfully for a decade since its launch. As the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art gears up to open a new standalone space in the capital, these plans are only getting bigger.

Housing some of the most prominent artists in the country and a coterie of upcoming contemporary artists, it’s a name that is well recognised and visited. The pandemic might have reduced the footfall to this sanctum sanctorum of art but, the founder and her team at KNMA have been busy innovating and finding digital avenues to engage the audience. An avid art collector, philanthropist, and international bridge player (she represented India at the Asian Games in 2018), Mrs Kiran Nadar is a force to reckon with.

Kiran Nadar
Kiran Nadar

Tell us about your interests in the field of art that led you to open the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Saket.

I started developing an interest in art when I was doing up my home. I soon started collecting art with passion. Eventually, I realized that I needed to do something with my art, and it’s when the idea of a museum was born. I wanted my art to bring other people as much joy as it brings me. I strongly believe that art is for everyone to view and appreciate.

In light of the pandemic, has art-viewing as an activity taken a backseat. If so, how can one support or promote art galleries/artists/museums?

I think the pandemic has hastened the shift to digital for the arts and culture worldwide. This is not necessarily a bad thing as many paid museums and institutions allowed unparalleled access to their collections in the midst of the pandemic. It truly allowed art to be accessible to all. It also spurred a lot of creativity and ingenuity within museums, galleries, and artists. Finding innovative ways to engage with your audience in a medium (digital) that is not your normal medium of engagement can be very challenging. The best way to support your local galleries, artists and museums is to engage with them online or in person.

NN Rimzon - The Tools, 1993 Resin, marble dust fiberglass and Iron (1)
NN Rimzon – The Tools, 1993 Resin, marble dust fibreglass and Iron. Image: Courtesy KNMA.

There is a growing bend towards art in outdoor or unexpected places, as opposed to traditional galleries or museums. Your thoughts on that?

Public art can be such an intrinsic part of city life. It can invoke emotions and capture the essence of a city on a wall or surface. It is a token interaction that people from all walks of life can experience; it is truly making art accessible to all. A few years ago, it was more of a novelty, but now it is having its moment with increasing exposure and numerous pieces of public art coming up frequently across the country. For me, it is a wonderful way of ensuring that art is accessible and enjoyable to all.

Which artists, writers or creative thinkers have influenced your journey?

One of the major influences for me has been Mahatma Gandhi. I have read his book My Experiments with Truth, and while I was not born during his lifetime, he had a profound effect on me. I have seen what he has done for the country, and he has raised in me an unmatched level of national interest. I could never imagine leaving India and going somewhere else and getting a passport. I am Indian to the core, and even today when I hear the national anthem, I cry. I think the passion for my country is something that Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings have inculcated in me. He is a writer, thinker, leader, he was all in one. He is one of the most major contributors to my journey.

If I have to name an artist who has done a lot to enrich my art journey, it would be the legendary painter from the early 20th century, Raja Ravi Varma. As an artist, his depictions of the Indian people, be it royalty, the common people, or god and goddesses, is unique. The way he has represented the figures, the textiles, the jewellery lends an incredible humanisation of all these characters. Ravi Varma has played a great role in developing my deep interest and involvement in art.

What has been your motivation in supporting art through private patronage?

Currently, there is not enough support and a lot more needs to be done about it. I strongly believe that art is a very important part of a well-rounded education. Therefore, a lot of the work we do at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) is education-focused including workshops, activities, discussions, and digital series. We also aim to share knowledge and learning with our audience.

What is the importance of private patronage in today’s climate?

I think it is essential to the survival of the arts community. When you look at some of the most famous museums in the world, you will realize how many had their origins in private patronage. For example, Guggenheim, the Frick, and many more. They are essential in preserving contemporary art history and artworks.

Himmat Shah, Untitled Pop with Enamel Paint with silver glazing Untitled (Devi) Bronze. Image: Courtesy KNMA.
Himmat Shah, Untitled Pop with Enamel Paint with silver glazing Untitled (Devi) Bronze. Image: Courtesy KNMA.

What is on the horizon for KNMA?

The biggest milestone coming up is the new Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) stand-alone building designed by  Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye. This state-of-the-art building will be located in the capital and will house our new museum and also a cultural centre. While this was unavoidably delayed due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, we are now excited to proceed with our plans. In this new space, we hope to build upon our mission and expand it by providing a hub of creative education for all. The goal remains the same i.e. to make art more and more accessible and to make people more aware of its importance and the role it plays in shaping our society.

All Images: Courtesy Kiran Nadar Museum Of Art.

Akshita Nahar Jain
Sr Associate Editor
Akshita Nahar Jain has worked with various publications, including Elle, Harper’s Bazaar Bride, and Time Out Delhi, and written extensively on fashion and lifestyle. A sucker for alliteration and stylish sitcoms, she enjoys scrolling the web for less travelled destinations.