Kiran Nadar Museum of Art: Education priority for India’s first private institution


Kiran Nadar, the well-known collector of blue chip Indian art, opened the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) in 2010. It is India’s first philanthropic, profit-free contemporary and modern art museum and it houses artwork created by some of the leading names in Indian art.

Kiran Nadar with an installation by Subodh Gupta.

In spite of its rich cultural heritage, until 2010, India lacked public institutions that promoted the country’s art and culture. Private institutions had started to contribute sporadically, but the Shiv Nadar Foundation took the first major step in January of that year and established the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) in Delhi.

Kiran Nadar is the wife of HCL Technologies founder Shiv Nadar, an Indian industrialist, philanthropist, and founder and chairman of the Shiv Nadar Foundation. Kiran is also the jury chairperson of The Škoda Prize for Indian contemporary art and a member of the Rasaja Foundation, an educational, scientific and cultural institution created in 1984 by the late Jaya Appasamy, a renowned artist, art historian and art critic. In 2011, Forbes Magazine acknowledged the Nadars in its list of 48 ‘Heroes of Philanthropy’ in the Asia Pacific region.

 Years of collection lead to private museum 

The motivations for the establishment of the KNMA were twofold. Firstly, Kiran Nadar was running short of wall space and had to put her collection in storage. She quickly realised that there were other options available to her. As Nadar put it,

About four or five years ago, I realised that I had collected, and was putting work into storage, and I thought I should do something more meaningful with them, and also I realised that there is really a paucity of places to view art in New Delhi.

She echoed similar sentiments in an interview with Culture 360, an initiative of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), facilitated and hosted by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF),

I am passionate about art and hence, have been an avid collector of it. It all started with my interest in buying art and wanting to live with it. Over the years, the emphasis shifted from buying to collecting artworks and later as the collection grew, I felt unhappy with the idea that I had to put these great pieces of art into storage and not even see them myself.

The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

Secondly, Nadar had a larger vision of creating a platform for experiencing art, culture, and showcasing India’s best modern and contemporary art to the world. She wanted to leave her footprints by building an institution similar to the Guggenheim and Rockefeller families’,

I have great examples in front of me, the Guggenheims, the Rockefellers, they are fantastic examples of people who built institutions, so I would like to be remembered way beyond my own lifetime, as having established something in the field of art.

Collection includes leading lights of Indian art 

The KNMA currently possesses around 300 pieces of modern and contemporary artworks, including works by A. Ramachandran, Anish Kapoor, Arpita Singh, F. N. Souza, Jamini Roy, Jogen Chowdhury, Krishen Khanna, M. F. Husain, Manjit Bawa, N. S. Harsha, Ram Kumar, Rameshwar Broota, S. H. Raza, Subodh Gupta, Tyeb Mehta and V. S. Gaitonde, among others. Some noteworthy artworks are Bharti Kher’s The Skin Speaks A Language Not Its Own, Rina Banerjee’s The world as burnt fruit and Akbar Padamsee’s Grey Nude.

Bharti Kher, 'The Skin Speaks A Language Not Its Own', 2006, fibreglass and bindi.

Rina Banerjee, 'The world as burnt fruit', 2009, fans, feather, cowrie shells, resin alligator, skull, globe, glass vials, light bulbs, gourds, steel wire, Japanese mosquito nets, 253 x 90 x 90 inches.

Expansion of the museum

In 2011, the KNMA launched a second museum at DLF South Court Mall, Saket, in a 18,000 sq ft space. While the museum is placed in the middle of a shopping centre and attracts lot of interest, Nadar eventually intends to move it to a freshly built iconic structure, reflective of the art it houses.

The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art at DLF, Saket.

The way forward

Going forward, the KNMA plans to focus on enhancing the museum-going culture in India through educational public programs, well-curated global exhibitions and workshops for children and the specially-abled, as Nadar explains in an interview to The Hindu, an Indian national newspaper,

School education will be an area where we plan to concentrate. We hope to change the mindset of the parents through kids. But it can’t be a long boring tour of the museum. We ought to have interesting exercises to keep them engaged … maybe give them an exercise to draw their own interpretation of one of the works.

The museum intends to work towards nurturing, enhancing and growing the collection, and in the process establish itself as a centre for art education and a key milestone in the Indian art narrative.


Related Topics: Indian art, promoting art, museum collections

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Kiran Nadar Museum of Art: Education priority for India’s first private institution — 3 Comments

  1. This museum is very nice & admirable.
    Sanjiv Trivedi
    Archaeologist & Museologist

  2. Pingback: Subodh Gupta’s Line of control exhibited in Delhi by KNMA | Art Concoction

  3. Pingback: The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi | Asian Art Blog

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