Collecting for the Public: Kiran Nadar

Aaina Bhargava of Saffronart’s take on Kiran Nadar’s future ambitions for her private museum – The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

“I have stopped thinking of art as personal.”

London: January 2010 saw the opening of the Kiran Nadar Museum in New Delhi, featuring the personal collection of avid collector Kiran Nadar.  Alongside the Devi Art Foundation, which was opened in 2008 by collector Anupam Poddar and his mother Lekha in Gurgaon, the prime function of KNMA is not only to put up the Nadars’ personal collection on display but also to provide a non-profit space dedicated to holding exhibitions for modern and contemporary art.  The goal is to foster a museum going culture and increase awareness for art in a country and city where there is a lack of art museums, especially those for modern and contemporary art. 

With an already established yet burgeoning collection, Nadar intends to move her collection out of its current location in a mall, into a purpose – built museum that will allow more works to be exhibited to the public, in the most creative and apt manner possible.  However, as favorable as the development of this new museum is, it doesn’t come without the challenge of overcoming hurdles stationed by the government.  In a recent interview with FT, Nadar stated that land acquisition for such facilities becomes a struggle and the lack of government support is curious:

“You’d think the government would look on this as an opportunity,”

However, she hopes the building will be constructed in five years time, giving her that much time to further shape and expand her collection.

Nadar’s future goals and expansion brings one to reflect on the role of the collector in the art world.  Opening private museums has been a trend of late, especially in emerging markets such as Asia.  China specifically, has seen significant growth in these new private institutions, as it is arguably the largest and fastest growing art market, it is because of this high level of investment in art that these institutions are able to exist.  Other emerging markets such as India have experienced much slower growth in the development of institutions (private or public) exhibiting art.  It is certainly in response to a major lack of public institutions, that collectors such as Nadar open up their collections to public display, and assume this responsibility to provide the public with some kind of awareness and education in regards to art, especially art that would be relevant to a younger generation.  India has one of the youngest populations in the world, thus culturally informing that generation becomes a priority.  As the government won’t assume this responsibility, it falls on other members of society, whether they be artists, curators, or in this case, collectors. 

 

Subodh Gupta, Lines of Control in the South Court Mall, Delhi

Subodh Gupta, Lines of Control in the South Court Mall, Delhi. Image Credit: http://im.ft-static.com/content/images/97e6a8c2-5243-11e3-adfa-00144feabdc0.img

Raising awareness for contemporary art especially proves to be an issue in India.  One way of resolving this issue is to exhibit art in public spaces, which is exactly what Nadar did when she installed Subodh Gupta’s Lines of Control in the middle of South Court Mall in New Delhi.  The sculpture, representing an atomic bomb cloud and assembled using Gupta’s preferred materials: steel pots, pans and utensils, refers to issues between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.  Now, it is viewed by thousands of mall goers on a daily basis.  Placing artworks in malls is not a new concept, it has been done before, multiple times by artist collective Khoj.  However this again brings the artwork to the viewer, not the viewer of the artwork, which is ultimately Nadar’s goal in building a museum and creating this culture of museum going.  In order to stimulate this interest, Nadar is also changing her collection tactics:

“I used to buy art completely on a whim. Now, I still collect what I like but I look at it a little more in perspective. I would like the collection to be encyclopedic rather than episodic.”

In assembling a more visionary, academic, and wholesome collection, Nadar exemplifies the potential collectors have in influencing and attracting audiences of art.  Furthermore, her passion reflects that intentions to build private institutions go far beyond providing exhibiting spaces for large and fast growing collections and gaining tax benefits, and that they can, and do, fulfill social goals of raising cultural awareness. 

For more information about the Kiran Nadar Art Museum visit KNMA website.  

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