Padma Shri for Kiran Nadar: 40 years, and counting : The Tribune India

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Padma Shri for Kiran Nadar: 40 years, and counting

Kiran Nadar on the Padma Shri and her burgeoning art collection

Padma Shri for Kiran Nadar: 40 years, and counting

Kiran Nadar, chairperson of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) in New Delhi, has been honoured with the Padma Shri this year.



Sarika Sharma

Kiran Nadar, chairperson of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) in New Delhi, has been honoured with the Padma Shri this year. She began collecting art in the 1980s, opening a museum in a mall first and seeing it grow into one of India’s biggest private museums. She calls the Padma award an acknowledgement of what she has tried to do in the last 40 years. Excerpts from an interview...

Your tryst with art began in the 1980s. How was the art market at the time? There were no auction houses. Was there enough education on art?

There were no auction houses then and interest in art and art education was limited. While there were universities like Baroda and Santiniketan and many educational institutions that taught art in terms of where to acquire and how to acquire, it was a small community. There were some galleries and some very good ones that are still there. For me, it was a start. I bought a little bit of art.

When did you start building KNMA?

I started collecting seriously around 1999. But it still wasn’t such a mega collection. Then I thought that instead of putting these artworks into storage, the works I possessed needed to be in a repository of some kind. That is how the idea of the museum started and this idea came into my mind around 2003-2004. However, it took another seven-eight years before KNMA came about. We first started in Noida and within a year, we started the Saket Museum.

The thrust of the museum has been on modern and contemporary art. Is there a particular artist you would like to promote?

Today, art is not just modern and contemporary. It also includes antiquities, miniature paintings. So, it is more like an encyclopaedic collection. Works of some well-known Europeans are also part of the collection. We also have some modern and contemporary art from South Asia. The collection and its scale have grown. In two-and-a-half years, we will have a standalone museum, which we have already started constructing. It is going to be a museum and a cultural centre because we feel that culture and art have great synergy and we would like to support that.

You are India’s leading art collector. How big is the collection now?

The art collection is close to 14,000 works.

Which are the most important works in your collection? Amrita Sher-Gil’s ‘The Story Teller’ would be one of them...

Yes, ‘The Story Teller’ is one of the recent works I have acquired. I’ve important works of most of the Moderns and contemporaries, so, I don’t want to put a finger on any of them and pick my favourite. But I can certainly tell you that the one artist I have great admiration for is Raja Ravi Varma.

What would you say about people’s connection with art today?

When we started, it was a difficult task harnessing footfall because somehow in Delhi, more than in Mumbai, Chennai or Kolkata, the interest in art was limited. But today, we have done multiple educational programmes for both children and adults. So, I think that we have crossed that initial phase where we found it difficult to connect. Our outreach is dynamic and so is the participation of people across ages. I also feel that receiving the great honour of Padma Shri might generate curiosity among those who haven’t heard about KNMA and would now like to visit us to see and understand why the award has been given.


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