Nadar Art Museum lines up Rs 700 crore for expansion

Kiran Nadar, wife of HCL founder and chairman Shiv Nadar, is a gracious conversationalist. A former advertising professional, she has a way with words: for instance, she finds Delhi's museum-going culture "stultified" in nature. "It is worse than Mumbai and Kolkata," she insists.

Which explains why when Nadar opened an art museum early last year, she launched it in a mall, with the expectation that people who cross the entrance of the museum end up visiting it as well, over time. Which is why she thinks a grand installation - as tall as 36 feet - placed inside the mall (next to the museum) may soon attract crowds to appreciate art - and they may venture into the museum, she hopes.

The installation she has bought for this purpose is that of the most photographed contemporary artist of our time, Subodh Gupta - someone who first earned a name as a blue-chip artist abroad before the local art fraternity began to lap up his works.

Nadar has bought a 2009 work of Gupta from Europe's leading gallery Hauser & Wirth. The massive mushroom-cloud-like installation comprising Indian kitchen utensils, pots, pans and so on, was exhibited at the Tate Britain Museum's triennial in 2009.

Nadar, a custodian of many of Gupta's earlier works, says she chose 'Line of Control' because it is one of Gupta's most "seminal" works - a work that, according to Gupta, tries to highlight the plight of people who lose out to power struggles between mighty countries and "wannabe superpowers and nuclear powers".

"Along the real Line of Control, be it along the India-Pakistan border or anywhere else in the world, including in the Middle East, there is a lot of emptiness," says Gupta, lamenting that amid all the grandstanding about war preparedness and defence procurement, the lives of millions of common men are denigrated.

The 45-year-old quintessential Bihari boy from Mohalla Chhoti Badalpura, Patna, goes on: "Since the beginning of the practice, even when I used to earn not a penny selling my works, I have focussed on the huge gap between the haves and the have-nots."

Nadar refuses to divulge how much she paid the British gallery to pick up the work, but says it was "not for a cheap sum".

And she does reveal the amount of money the museum plans to set aside for the next two years to spread its wings: 500 crore for acquiring works from artists (the museum already has a good collection of works) and 200 crore on new buildings, etc.

Nadar adds that she has no plans to set up art museums in other cities.

And on Friday, the "expensive" installation was opened for public viewing - for the first time in India - at Saket's DLF South Court Mall, which houses the Kiran Nadar Musem of Art.

For his part, Gupta says he received great response for the work abroad. He expects the Indian public to appreciate the work, too.

For Nadar, it is a big bet, her aim being making art lovers out of the mall-going crowd, whose familiarity with art at the moment is, largely, the familiarity with strangeness.

Saturday, April 21, 2012