Passion, platform, promotion: 10 years of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

In this three-part photo essay, we showcase a range of creative works at KNMA along with founder, curator, and artistic insights.

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 480 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) turns ten this year. Based in New Delhi, it hosted four exhibitions earlier this year, titled Scripting Time, Memory, and Ecology (curated by Roobina Karode); Zarina: A Life in Nine Lines; Line, Beats and Shadows; and Abstracting Nature.

The themes included historical, spiritual, political, and environmental experiences across generations of artists. The featured works were by Zarina Hashmi, Ayesha Sultana, Prabhavathi Meppayil, Lala Rukh, Sumakshi Singh, Mrinalini Mukherjee, and Jayashree Chakravarty.

The artworks span drawings, prints, etchings, lithographs, aquatints, collages, paper casts, metal casts, and installations. Works of some of the artists, such as Mrinalini Mukherjee, have also been exhibited at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (see our six-part coverage of the 2019 edition here).

(Note: These photographs from the museum were taken before the national lockdown due to the coronavirus. The visit to the museum was not in violation of any public safety guidelines.)

“Many of our shows are collaborative and feature more than one artist,” explains Kiran Nadar, Founder and Chairperson, KNMA, in a chat with YourStory.

The two KNMA venues have a combined display area of around 50,000 sq. ft. Activities include exhibitions, publications, education, and other public programs. Over the past ten years, it has hosted more than 100 international exhibitions and art exchange programmes, and collaborated with the likes of NDMC, NCERT, and FICA.

“I am happy with the way KNMA has marked its presence on the art scene of India and equally earned global attention,” she explains. She sees more innovation, ideas, celebration and discovery in the coming decade.

Her journey shows how the love of art can lead to becoming an art collector, supporter, and evangelist at national and global levels. KNMA’s collection of over 5,000 artworks represents modern and contemporary Indian art.

Kiran Nadar

“We have also taken a number of shows of Indian artists abroad to be showcased to the world,” she adds. The lineup has included Jayashree Chakravarty, Nasreen Mohamedi, Bhupen Khakhar, Jitish Kallat, Shakuntala Kulkarni, and Rummana Hussain.

KNMA’s international collaborations include The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Tate Modern (London), Musée Des Arts Asiatiques (Nice), Musée Guimet (Paris), and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid).

“In fact, we were in the process of putting together what was to be the largest display of contemporary Indian art outside India at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. This has now been postponed to next year due to the pandemic,” Kiran says (see our earlier interview here on some of the museum’s other activities during the pandemic crisis).

“We were able to celebrate our 10th anniversary on the heels of the annual Indian Art Fair, so quite a number of people had the chance to see the exhibition,” Kiran recalls (see YourStory’s five-part coverage of India Art Fair 2020 here).

“We have been very fortunate and have received a lot of positive feedback for the exhibition,” she proudly says. Though the pandemic and lockdown struck soon after, there was renewed interest in the digital elements and online presence of the museum.

“All kinds of businesses and industries across the world have been hit hard by the pandemic. Museums and galleries have shut down. Artists’ participation in forthcoming biennales and other exhibitions has been either postponed or cancelled,” Kiran laments.

“It is truly an unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in. While the government is yet to announce support for the arts, at KNMA, we are in the process of putting together some initiatives to help art and artists get through this tough period, especially younger and emerging ones,” she adds. 


KNMA has also developed collaborations with schools and colleges for art education. “The team at KNMA has art educators onboard as well, and they offer a fresh vision for art education which needs to serve the purpose for today’s generation,” Kiran explains.

She sees success for herself through increasing public interest in art. “Being a founder of a pioneering museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art is exhilarating. My vision when I founded the museum was to highlight that art is for everyone,” she recalls.

“I think we have made great inroads into that vision with our array of programmes and offerings aimed at bringing more people into the museum and helping to spark that interest in the arts. The more people I am able to draw towards art and peak their interest in visiting museums—any museum—the more successful I will consider myself,” Kiran proudly says.

Art appreciation in India is much-needed on a broader and deeper scale. “We have great teachers, art connoisseurs, students but few opportunities to bring them all together,” she observes.

“KNMA does a lot of work in this area, trying to create opportunities of engagement and education for the art world and beyond. It is a continuous process that requires a lot of innovation and creative thinking in order to engage with communities that may not always be inclined towards art,” Kiran emphasies.

She also advises audiences to familiarise themselves with art rather than be intimidated by it. “The first and most important thing is not to consider art as being something alien to life. It is a part of life and hence there is no need to be intimidated,” she says.

“The more you familiarise yourself with art, the more it starts speaking to you and a connection can be made. Expose yourself to art in all sorts of forms, and slowly you will develop your own taste, approach and understanding,” Kiran advises.


She also offers tips and suggestions for aspiring artists. “Patience and endurance take you a long way if you are committed to what you want to pursue,” she says.

“The road is never smooth or straight. Sooner or later, you will find your path, alone or with the help of others,” Kiran signs off.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new ways of fully exploring your creative side?

See also the YourStory pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible as apps for Apple and Android devices.

Edited by Kanishk Singh


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