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We truly believe that art is for everyone: Kiran Nadar

As Kiran Nadar Museum of Art enters its second decade, its founder reflects on the journey so far and plans to open yet another museum in Delhi

Kiran Nadar, the founder of KNMA.
Kiran Nadar, the founder of KNMA.

With the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) opening its doors to visitors since 13 July with strict covid protocols, Delhi-NCR residents now have a chance to witness its ongoing show, a special project commemorating a decade of the institution’s existence—it hit that landmark last year, weeks before the pandemic put paid to the old normal in the world of art and culture.

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As the title makes it clear, Narrating from the Museum Archives and Collection: 10 years of KNMA, which is on at the Noida wing of KNMA, draws on its rich holdings to present a veritable feast for the eyes. MF Husain, VS Gaitonde, SH Raza, Krishen Khanna and several other stalwarts of modern and contemporary Indian art are housed under one roof, along with other brilliant and less-known names like Ranbir Kaleka, Ida Kar, KP Krishnakumar and others. It’s like taking a tour through the annals of art history while anticipating the present and future currents in the field.

Lounge spoke to Kiran Nadar, renowned art collector and founder of KNMA about the journey of the institution, its future plans, and the impact on it of the covid-19 pandemic. Edited excerpts:

'Twice Upon A Time,' Nalini Malani.
'Twice Upon A Time,' Nalini Malani.

Could you take us through the last ten years of KNMA?

KNMA, based in Delhi-NCR, celebrated a decade in January 2020. It was the first of its kind private museum of art when it first opened, showcasing Indian modern and contemporary art. We currently have two spaces for the museum—one in Noida, the other in Saket. In the last 10 years, the museum has grown tremendously and achieved many things that had not been thought possible for Indian art and artists. Our current show, on display at our Noida space offers a glimpse into the history of the museum.

KNMA has worked very hard to put India on the art world map, with international exhibitions and shows such as Our Time For A Future Caring, The India Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale; Earth As Heaven: Under The Canopy of Love, which showcased the work on Jayshree Chakravarty at Musee Guimet in Nice, France; Nasreen Mohamedi at the Met in New York, US; Nalani Malani at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France; Bhupen Khakhar at the Tate Modern in London, UK. Exhibitions such as these have given Indian artists unprecedented exposure and recognition.

Another aspect of the work we do at KNMA, that we are very proud of, is our association with schools, colleges, and NGOs. We have a packed schedule, and we organize workshops, programmes, and various activities for the students to participate in. Pre-pandemic, we had a regular schedule of walk-throughs and visits organized for these children as well, the idea being to begin inculcating an interest in art from a very young age, showcasing that art is indeed for everyone.

We also look for new and interesting ways to draw new audiences to appreciate art. For example, we have collaborated with Noida authorities to create public art in different spaces, such as highway underpasses and metro stations. We had also organized a live flash mob in a Delhi mall to bring a Raja Ravi Varma painting to life, with catchy music and skilled dancers. We are always looking for new and unusual ways to draw in new audiences. We truly believe that art is for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.

The Tool, NN Rimzon.
The Tool, NN Rimzon.

How has the pandemic impacted programming and collections in the last year?

The physical closure of the museums did affect and pause the collections and programming for a while, but we were able to pivot fairly quickly to bring to our audiences a variety of digital offerings. This included virtual exhibitions and tours, where you can have a walkthrough and experience an exhibition from the comfort of your own home. Not to forget a variety of workshops, seminars, interactive sessions, online film festivals, online contests and more aimed at both children and adults. KNMA also kicked off the Art X series which explores the crossroads of art with various other fields such as fashion, design, food, sustainability and more. This allowed us to access new audiences that previously may not have paid much attention to art.

Untitled, Himmat Shah.
Untitled, Himmat Shah.

What are your big plans for the next decade?

The biggest milestone for the next decade is the new KNMA stand-alone building, designed by Sir David Adjaye. This new 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—to make art more accessible and to make people more aware of its importance and the role it plays in shaping our society.

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