This seems to be a good year for the art and culture space. If March saw the launch of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre in Mumbai, this month saw plans unveiled for the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art’s (KNMA’s) new space in Delhi. On 18 May, the architectural model was showcased simultaneously at KNMA Saket in Delhi and the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
Envisaged as a museum and cultural centre, to be opened by 2026, this arts space will be spread across a massive 100,000 sq. m off the national highway near the Indira Gandhi International Airport. It is being designed by the Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye—known for projects such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Princeton University Art Museum in the US—in collaboration with S Ghosh & Associates as the local architects of record. This space will be in addition to the KNMA’s galleries in Saket and Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
For Kiran Nadar, founder-chairperson, KNMA, the aim is to address the neglect of cultural legacy—in terms of both visual and performing arts. “It is such a struggle for an arts space to get footfalls. Ours is a completely philanthropic effort, aimed at educating people in art and culture. We thought if we have a cultural centre alongside the museum, people who visit the former will automatically get exposed to art as well, and vice versa. As a result, both the aspects will evolve,” she says.
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The new KNMA will house six galleries, including permanent ones to showcase the in-house collection of over 10,000 modern and contemporary works. There will be temporary shows too, either from the collection or borrowed from other museums. “The cultural centre will have studios and two auditoriums to seat 700 and 200 people, respectively. These will host music, dance and theatre performances,” adds Nadar. “The construction work has just started and the thought on the curation is going on.”
The plan is to host seminars, talks, art courses, workshops, opera, craft shows, and more, making the different aspects of art and culture accessible. “More importantly, the museum is designed for movement and repose, to slow down and enjoy, spend time, feel a sense of community, a coming together, a place that invites multiple dialogues and conversations,” says Roobina Karode, director and chief curator, KNMA.
She believes the new complex will take forward Nadar’s vision—first outlined in 2010, when KNMA opened its doors—as being a place of confluence and conversations. “...a museum for the people and a place that would embrace all art forms. KNMA has been doing this on a modest scale in the existing premises. However, a distinctive feature in the new space is that we will have special galleries dedicated to KNMA’s permanent collection. It will allow us to curate it and present it in unique ways and rotate the viewing of the collection every year,” she adds.
It has taken nearly two years to select the architectural team, through a competition that saw entries from around 70 architects across the world. Five of these, shortlisted, went on to present themes and models. Initially, the plan was to open the museum in Noida.
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“We had selected the space, which was going to come through a government auction, but that plan didn’t materialise. We ended up finding this space opposite Aerocity. But the building had to be reconceptualised,” explains Nadar. “Initially, Sir David Adjaye had designed the building as a vertical one. However, near the airport, you can’t build anything beyond 23m in height. So, the entire scope of work changed.”
Now that the construction has started, she plans to get an exhibition designer on board to work closely with Karode on the curation.The architectural model of the museum is accompanied by an exhibition in Saket which explores the “Mnemonic” theme through image, text, architecture and the moving image. It features works by Tyeb Mehta, Zarina, Nasreen Mohamedi from the museum collection, and a film, Touch AIR (2023), by contemporary film-maker Amit Dutta. “It amplifies through their coexistence, the relationship between ‘museum and memory’, suspending the movement of time between the past and the present, while alluding to the theme of Partition (of India and Pakistan in 1947), the line that ruptured a unified sense of place and being,” states the curatorial note.
The model is on view at KNMA Saket till 28 May.