In an ancient Jaipur fort – a new connection to contemporary art

On December 10, Rajasthan’s chief minister, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, inaugurated a one-of-a-kind sculpture park inside the fort’s Madhavendra Palace.
A sculpture, Thukral &Tagra, at the fort.(HT)
A sculpture, Thukral &Tagra, at the fort.(HT)
Updated on Dec 16, 2017 03:12 PM IST
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ByRiddhi Doshi, Mumbai

For those who walk into Jaipur’s 283-year-old Nahargarh Fort and marvel at its history, there is now another unexpected attraction: contemporary sculpture.

On December 10, Rajasthan’s chief minister, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, inaugurated a one-of-a-kind sculpture park inside the fort’s Madhavendra Palace.

The project, a public-private venture between Saat Saath Arts, the government of Rajasthan and corporate houses, took a year to set up. It houses 40 sculptures by Indian artists like Jitish Kallat, LN Tallur, Thukral & Tagra and Manish Nai alongside works by French artist Arman, American artist James Brown and British artist Stephen Cox among others. Visitors will be able to take in a giant spiderweb by Reena Kallat, Subodh Gupta’s old remodelled ambassador car, and multi-coloured papier-mache work by Manish Nai.

The park aims to strengthen contemporary art in a region predominantly known for its history and heritage. It’s also a reason to to get visitors to keep coming back to the fort.

“We need public spaces for art to use culture as a conduit for job creation, tourism and economic growth,” says Aparajita Jain of Saat Saath Arts, which supports exchange between India and the rest of the world through the visual arts.

Malvika Singh, cultural advisor for government of Rajasthan, says it is important for the government to look at how historical sites can be used for present-day exhibitions and performances. “It is only when a sense of pride is generated through such rekindling and reinvention of public domains, that conservation becomes real and a priority,” she says.

Across the world, sculpture parks have become a way for visitors and locals to appreciate the location and new art. In the US, the DeCordova Sculpture Park outside Boston has more than 40 gigantic colourful sculptures across woodland. On the Japanese island Naoshima, fisherpeople’s 200-year-old homes contain contemporary installations. Norway’s Artscape Nordland has works from contemporary artists like Anish Kapoor along the cliffs and beaches, infusing life into the remote coast.

The park’s curator Peter Nagy hopes the venue introduces contemporary art to a wider audience. “Putting on exhibitions, especially one as large as this at a remote site, takes a huge amount of organisation and teamwork,” he says. “I enjoy working with people who are not in the art world and showing them the numerous possibilities for art that exist. Getting them involved in the management of a project like this makes them feel connected and closer to the art.”

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