Eight months ago, Peter Nagy and Aparajita Jain of Delhi’s experimental art gallery Nature Morte visited Jaipur’s Nahargarh Fort, and began planning the creation of India’s first sculpture park for contemporary art. They collaborated with the government of Rajasthan and corporate sponsors like Shreyasi Goenka (content advisor, DNA) to launch The Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace, inside the 18th century fort that overlooks the Pink City.
Jain is also the founder-director of Saat Saath Arts, the non- pro t foundation that is funding the project, which will open to the public on December 10. “Peter and I had been speaking about the need for public art venues, and he suggested the use of heritage spaces in India for contemporary sculptures,” says Jain. Curated by Nagy, the year-long exhibition will showcase the works of eight international and several Indian artists, including Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Huma Bhabha and Thukral & Tagra. The Maharaja’s apartment inside the palace will feature sculptures by the late French-American artist Fernandez Arman for the first time in India. The current show will continue till December 2018, after which Saat Saath Arts will organise the next year-long exhibition in collaboration with new artists.
Talking about his curatorial process, Nagy says, “The palace, as one experiences it now, is an empty monument. It was built to be a site of luxury, eroticism and intrigue. I wanted to bring some of this back.” To give it life, Nagy chose works that use domesticity as a theme. Visitors will be treated to Jitish Kallat’s Annexation, Kher’s Impossible Triangle and Thukral & Tagra’s Memorial series, all of which recall household objects, such as clothing and furniture, among other diverse subjects.
For Thukral & Tagra, The Sculpture Park is a step in the right direction. “We always complain about the lack of museums in India. [But we] don’t have to build new ones; we should use the spaces we already have,” they say.
The objective of the initiative is not to only draw attention to contemporary art, but to also enable the masses to engage with the artworks. Malvika Singh, a member of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s advisory council, who also worked on the project, believes that partnerships between the government and private enterprises are key to popularising public art venues.
“Public art does not demand a membership card. It is, fundamentally, a great leveller,” she says.