Home Arts For India’s largest private collector, David Adjaye designs his ‘most advanced museum concept’ to date

For India’s largest private collector, David Adjaye designs his ‘most advanced museum concept’ to date

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In 2011, Indian collector Kiran Nadar stepped in to help fund her country’s inaugural pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale, in the near total absence of state support for the exhibition. At the time, his idea for a generation-defining museum in Delhi was rudimentary, but ambitious. “I didn’t know yet what form it would take, but I knew it would be big,” she says. The arts journal.

True to her vision, Nadar returned to Venice last month for the 18th Biennale of Architecture (until November 26) to unveil plans for what promises to be India’s largest private art museum project of this century. She was joined by David Adjayethe prominent Ghanaian-British architect who in 2019 was selected to design her building.

This will be India’s national museum of modern and contemporary art, for all intents and purposes

Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA

New Kiran Nadar Art Museum (KNMA) is set to open in 2026, near Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. It will be “the national museum of modern and contemporary art of India, for all intents and purposes,” said Glenn Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in a live chat with Adjaye during the unveiling of the building’s designs at the Biennale. “India’s institutions have failed to match the scale and potential of its arts,” Lowry said. “The KNMA assumes the role of symbol of what is now possible.”

Nadar is, in many ways, the greatest private collector and patron of modern and contemporary Indian art today. It has acted as something of a beacon for the country’s art world since it opened its first museum in 2010, in Delhi’s neighboring city of Noida, with a collection of around 500 works. A year later, she launched a second space in a mall in Saket, South Delhi. (The two existing KNMA sites will continue to be used once the new museum opens, although their capacity is still undecided.) Nadar’s collection has now grown to contain more than 10,000 works. “It’s encyclopedic,” she said.

A large collection requires a large museum, and the site designed by Adjaye will reportedly measure 100,000 m². It will contain 11 galleries for temporary exhibitions and rotating exhibitions of the collection, ranging from new video installations and 20th century modern masterpieces to Nadar’s extensive unpublished collection of Indian miniature paintings. Two auditoriums for the performing arts will also be built to help “capture new audiences who are not yet into visual arts” and counter “a general apathy towards museums” in India, Nadar said.

The Indian government’s “lack of interest” in funding its modern and contemporary arts is something Nadar has spoken out about for a long time. She compares India’s progress to that of China, where hundreds of private museums have opened in the past decade. About ten comparable projects are in development in India; hardly any are so grand in scale or gun-building ambitions. “I had no intention of becoming the doyenne of Indian art,” says Nadar. “To be honest, I think it’s time for others to step in. This can’t be just one person’s legacy.”

Some attempts are made by other super-rich collectors to fill this gap. In March, the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Center (NMACC) opened in Mumbai with four floors of gallery space and a guest list of Hollywood and Bollywood A-listers as shimmering as the Swarovski crystal lotus adorning its ceiling. “It’s their way forward, I have nothing else to say about it,” says NMACC’s Nadar. She speaks more effusively of the recent opening Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) in Bangalore, the first private art museum in South India. Likewise, it hosts the Delhi museum project of businessman Sunil Kant Munjal Brij. “It will be good for Delhi to have more than my museum.”

Experimental technologies

“It’s the most important art project I’ve ever worked on,” Adjaye said of KNMA in an interview with The arts journal. “I don’t say that lightly.” It is the first building in South Asia designed by Adjaye Associates, although the firm is partnering with local Delhi firm S. Ghosh & Associates.

The region’s long architectural history has been “deeply influential” on Adjaye since he first traveled to India as a student. Describing the project as “his most advanced museum concept to date”, he says experimental technologies will be used, including a “dust suppressant” which is added to the concrete mix to help protect the structure from air pollution. notorious of Delhi.

His vision for the building considers India’s “multiple civilizations” and will incorporate “the breathtaking designs of Hindu shrines, the geometry of Mughal architecture in Rajasthan, Edwin Lutyens’ colonial era in Delhi, and modernist and brutalist buildings. of post-independence India,” he says.

I have no right or interest to exercise judgment on the best civilization. I respect all civilizations that have had an impact on beauty and art

David Adjaye, architect

Such inclusive consideration of India’s cultures and religions comes at a time when many aspects of the nation’s heritage are under threat from the rise of Hindu nationalism, encouraged in part by the ruling People’s Party government. Indian (BJP). This includes the destruction of historic mosques and Mughal-era buildings. Next year will see the completion of the Premier Narendra Modi’s controversial $2 billion project to rebuild New Delhi’s colonial-era parliament buildings.

“Kiran Nadar’s collection does not discriminate between the civilizations that lived in this region,” says Adjaye. “Similarly, I have no right or interest to exercise judgment on the best civilization. I respect all civilizations that have had an impact on beauty and art. If people are not happy with that, I can’t do anything.

But India’s polarized political landscape is increasingly becoming a pressure point for Nadar, who is married to billionaire industrialist Shiv Nadar. She recently came under online criticism for appearing in photographs with divider Modi, during his visit last month to an exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in New Delhi.

“THE [NGMA] the exhibition is not a collaboration in any capacity with KNMA,” Nadar said. The arts journal. “I was asked to get involved in an advisory role and I was at the inauguration and not as an official representative of the museum.” She dismisses concerns that associating with prominent government figures could compromise KNMA’s ability to show politically charged works, or act as a platform for advocacy on certain issues: “The curatorial team of the KNMA remains committed to maintaining artistic and intellectual integrity and autonomy through all of our programs. .”

The difficulty of Nadar’s position underscores the reality of undertaking a major construction project in India, where the process of obtaining construction permits can be opaque and stiflingly slow. Indeed, initial designs for the new KNMA called for a taller, more vertical structure on completely separate land, and had to be scrapped due to planning complications, says Adjaye.

Still, it seems Nadar’s ability to navigate tricky political terrain doesn’t just benefit the building ahead. As an institution, the KNMA increasingly wields a far greater degree of soft power than many of its Western counterparts, facilitating cultural partnerships across South Asia, where movement across post-borders -partition is often difficult.

This spring, the KNMA reached an unprecedented agreement with the Samdani Art Foundation in Bangladesh to organize exhibitions between the two countries. Meanwhile, a recent group exhibition at KNMA in Saket, South Asian Pop, involved a number of loans from Pakistan to India. “It was a battle to secure them, and even then we had works that couldn’t happen,” Nadar says. “Relations between our countries are so bad, worse than they have been for years. Some things go beyond art”.

Other cross-border ambitions are evident in the KNMA’s repeated reference to “South Asia”, rather than just India, in its official communications. According to Nadar, the institution will now make greater strides in uncovering the stories around the partition of South Asia in 1947 to look at the region in a more united sense. “My own great-grandfather was killed during partition – so many people lost someone during this time, everyone has stories. Connecting Indian art with South Asian art is a big step forward,” she says. “There are great things happening in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka that we need to integrate more. These things are not easy, but you have to try.

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