Palace drops ancient guard, lets in new artists

Palace drops ancient guard, lets in new artists

Jaipur’s Nahargarh fort gets a new lease of life with the sculpture park, an art installation museum across its ramparts. By Palak Sharma

If you hear the clang of steel pots and pans from the innards of Jaipur’s Nahargarh fort or chance upon the story of grain and bread as connecting all civilisations, don’t be spooked. Chances are that artistes Subodh Gupta or Thukral and Tagra are inside with their wares that have won acclaim from New York to Dubai.

The Nahargarh fort, which has lived in the shadow of a vibrant Amer all along, is being resurrected with cultural pride. It is an expansive spread which overlooks the Aravallis and gives a spectacular view of the Pink City along with its architecture and art in the most hidden cornices and recesses. But the ramparts, which have been nestling in serene solitude, will echo again as the fort  plays host to a multitude of artworks from across the globe and becomes one of the world’s largest open air galleries.

The Rajasthan government, in collaboration with Saat Saath Arts,  will unveil The Sculpture Park here on December 10, featuring five international and 15 Indian curators. Aparajita Jain, founder and director, Saat Saath Arts, tells us, “Rajasthan, being a culturally rich state and home to numerous pieces of art and architecture, intrigued me along with Peter Nagy, the curator. We came up with the idea to give a modern reference point to this aesthetically designed fort palace and approached the state government.” To be showcased both indoor and outdoor, the art installations will include the works of Arman, Huma Bhabha, Astha Butail, James Brown, Vibha Galhotra, Subodh Gupta, Evan Holloway, Jitish Kallat, Reena Kallat, Bharti Kher, Mrinalini Mukherjee, Manish Nai, Gyan Panchal, Prashant Pandey, Benitha Perciyal, Thukral and Tagra, LN Tallur, Ravinder Reddy, Asim Waqif, Arlene Shechet and many more.

“We got financial support from corporates, thus making it a cost-efficient assignment. However our only challenge was to conceptualise a unique avant-garde project which defines best practices of the industry alongside a successful business module. And the intriguing element was to come up with an unconventional approach in art, keeping the cultural sensitivity intact along with the contribution of several other individuals involved in this project,” asserts Jain.

Peter Nagy, project curator and director of Nature Morte Art Limited, mentions that he was keen on refurbishing the existing concept into an unusual and contemporary piece of art. “This project is an interface between the rich historic aspect of the city and contemporary artwork which is slowly picking its pace in India,” he shares.

Setting up The Sculpture Park was not a cakewalk as the curators had to work under limitations in a span of six months that included no use of nails to put up a wall panel that could distort the facades. Installing large mantelpieces was another challenge as the fort had sharp meanders all across the property. “Since we were bound to use limited artworks, we decided on setting up sculptures that could independently stand out without any additional support,” says Nagy. According to him, Indian art has witnessed an exceptional shift towards contemporary grammar that includes the use of textiles, motifs and applied art in the last 30 years in comparison to the initial stages.

Malvika Singh, fulltime member, Chief Minister’s Advisory Council (CMAC), Government of Rajasthan, informs that the government was keen on taking up this assignment and suggested the curators to involve private stakeholders. “The aim was to establish this project and give creative ownership to the curators who have largely put in efforts to add a new face to the Nahargarh fort. The art galleria installed at the fort’s Madhavendra Palace will feature exceptional pieces that can take the Jaipur experience to the next level and entice more travellers,” she asserts.

Singh further informs that the public-private association will encourage Indian art enthusiasts to curate standout artworks and sculptures besides adding a new experiential to the bouquet of tourist must-dos. The tourism department of Rajasthan has already worked on fresh concepts like Magnetic Fields, a contemporary arts and music festival, at Alsisar, the Sacred Music festival, a coming together of yoga, music and meditation in Pushkar and Jaipur Photo, an open air exhibition of travel photography. It has further roped in local artists to beautify the walls at railway stations. More creative components will be added to UNESCO listed heritage sites in the state in the following months. The price for viewing art? Just Rs 20 each.



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