How Jaipur’s Nahargarh Fort turned into a hub for contemporary art
Basking in the glory of Rajput history, the iconic Nahargarh fort in Jaipur has always remained a favourite among tourists. Built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734, the fort overlooks the Pink City. And now, it is also home to a sculpture park.
The sculpture park at Madhavendra Palace in Nahargarh Fort has turned into a hub of contemporary art where 15 Indian artists and 9 international artists have presented their collections. The park, which opened its doors on December 10, is a public-private collaboration between the Rajasthan government and the not-for-profit Saat Saath Arts.
Acclaimed curator Peter Nagy, who is the brain behind this concept, said it was a challenge for him to give a twist in the appearance of the fort but without hampering its surface. “Maintaining the art is difficult. Some of the works are even kept in the open and there is a risk of it being damaged by natural calamities as well as visitors. But there is a great scope of contemporary art in India which is gradually spreading its roots,” he said, adding, “For most of my career as a gallerist and curator, I have been trying to break away from the white-box exhibition space concept. With this project, I am able to indulge my passion for art, architecture and decor into a marvellous synthesis of the past and present,” said Nagy.
For artist Jitish Kallat, whose works Annexation and Vertical Chronicle of a Turbulent Equilibrium are being showcased in the sculpture park, there were no second thoughts when he was approached because he found the concept to be a fresh one. “Contemporary art needs to be in an environment which is devoid of content. When you see work against the backdrop of a really majestic architectural and historical structure, it only adds more dimension to the meaning,” said Kallat.
Artist Ravinder Reddy, who has taken up the contemporary issue of migration, believes there couldn’t have been a better place for his art than a heritage site. Reddy’s Migrant is a reflection of unacknowledged heroes, those who raise children, run homes, and keep families together. With Migrant, he commemorates women who are extremely pertinent in the world of 2017: the refugee who is forced to move from one location to another, often with her children and all she owns are on her head and back. “We are always creating history. In that context, I feel the sculpture is relevant because you are associating with an old structure and, at the same time, looking forward at the present. This is perhaps one of the best ways to engage with past and present at the same time,” said Reddy.
While curator Nagy expressed concern about the preservation of the sculptures, artists Thukral and Tagra voiced just the opposite. They wanted their piece of art to be touched by all. Titled Memorial - a & b (wings), the work recreates the imagery which came as a sequence of images in a dream. “This reflects our desires which cannot be fulfilled, which are so heavy that they cannot be lifted. We want the visitors to touch it and relate it with their own buried desires,” said Thukral.
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