You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
It all started as collecting just for the love of art and when she realized that it is something to be shared she became an art promoter. Meet Kiran Nadar the chairman of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art which is the country’s first philanthropic museum.
Much was heard and read about Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. Finally we headed towards South Court Mall Saket and the best landmark for this place is – “Where is the large stainless steel structure in this mall?” Actually it is Subodh Gupta’s Line of Control which is just before the entrance of the museum in the lobby. With a beautiful smile Kiran Nadar welcomed us in her office which is minimalistic on design aspect but colorful anarkali she was wearing makes it complete. As we settled down she shares what was the thought that made her to come up with such beautiful concept. “I was buying artifacts for my personal collection and my house walls were getting overcrowded. I have been collecting for quite long time and I felt that I should do something more meaningful with the collection. That’s how I decided to put it outside for public. I felt that people should be exposed to art and it is part of our philanthropic endeavor to promote art.”
Nowadays that she has taken her interest to a different level, her perspective of looking at art pieces has also changed. “Initially, I was not looking at nothing specific but just went with my choice. Today I collect with the idea of filling the gaps in the collection I have. Areas where we need to feel in, the art-piece that museum needs. Suppose you are collecting an artist, say Husain then I should have all the periods of his work. Or if I don’t have a particular artist presentation then I try to acquire them,” with a smile clearing her throat. Today she has two spaces where she puts collections on display – one at HCL campus in Noida and another here in Saket. The best thing about the whole idea of these museums is to promote art and it was never to earn some revenue or profit. “It is a philanthropic museum and first of its kind in the country which means it is free for anybody to come and view the art. We acquire the art and display them. And we are open to anyone who wants to donate their work. It is for the promotion of art has got no commercial interest at all,” says the sixty something years old art patron.
Here by selecting a group of artists and their works are displayed for around seven months or so. Like at the moment works of Nalini Malini and seventeen artists is showcased. “We have different curators who plan the show; sometimes we run out of the collection we have or get it on loan from other artists. But the theme is decided by me correlation with curators.” Talking about the art in the country, Kiran Nadar shares the sorry state, “Art scenario is in a mix state. It had lots of enthusiasm before Lehman Brothers crash but after that art was exposed to down trend. Now the top of the art market is very buoyant but the contemporary art market is a bit on the down. In art level, India doesn’t stand very high internationally. I think our artists have great potential but the collectors of Indian art are not many. We need to build collector base and more people must show interest in the art.”
She is not just complaining but she knows what has to be done, “We have shortage of institutions and private museums but the biggest problem is shortage of collectors, base of the collectors has to be increased. Today in India artist is not given the kind of status or importance that should be given by the government. We have such a huge cultural heritage it is a shame that we are not doing something about it.” On her part she is doing all she can in her capacity. “We want to build a permanent building, a museum which will be a standalone. Though right now this is just a plan we have not finalized it yet. It will promote Indian art nationally and internationally amongst the lay people and the art connoisseurs. We are going to have tie ups with the other museums also. Like, we are going to have a show of Nasreen Mohamadi in Madrid, The Reina Sofia then to New York.”
Kiran Nadar also understands that she is into an expensive interest and gives her husband Shiv Nadar full credit for pursuing it. “He is very supportive to my interest without which it would not have been possible for me because it is quite an expensive preposition to collect art.” By now the Nadars have collected around 1300 or more art-piece and interestingly according to Kiran they don’t have any artistic touch but are just admirers. “We don’t have any talent in painting but just collect. It is like somebody who may not be a good singer yet is fond of music.” And so much is the love that she can’t pick one as her favorite. “It is very difficult to say which artist I like. My connection is with the masters, we call it progressive like Shuja Hussian, Tyeb Mehta, Razak, and all who are prominent in the progressive art. But I have all different spheres of artist in the collection.”
That’s what and how she does as an art lover but other than that she is a mother, bridge player and big time sports lover. “I think as a mother I have raised my daughter Roshni quite well. She is taking care of the business as the CEO of the HCL Corporation and also of our foundation. Other than that I love to play bridges, I have even represented the country in the International level.” Well bridge was one of the reason how she met her husband with whom she was friends. “At the end of the year World Championship is coming to Chennai and I am quite excited about it. I love challenges and the bridge is all about mental challenges.” Although it was tough for her to choose one of her favorite artist, she has her sportsperson. “I really like Roger Federer! He is a wonderful player but more than a wonderful person. This year I was rooting for him but unfortunate he lost. I think it will be hard for him to come back.” Well her favorite didn’t win but for Indian artists and art lovers she is a winner for what she is doing. Kudos to her great endeavor!
(Published in Society Sept ’14, Page No.110)