Art collector Kiran Nadar now owns more than 5,000 artworks and is the proprietor of two of the biggest private museums in Delhi-NCR. She speaks to Bhumika Popli about her collection and her plans to set up a new museum in Noida.


It seems like Delhi-NCR will soon have a whole township dedicated to the arts. Indian art collector Kiran Nadar has just finalised plans for her new museum, to be set up on a three-and-a-half-acre plot beside the Delhi-Noida-Direct Flyway.

The museum’s central structure will be spread over some 150,000 square feet, which means there will be ample room here to house the many masterpieces that Nadar has collected over a span of three decades.

Construction work on the standalone building will soon begin, and the complete museum is likely to be ready in about two to three years from now.

Speaking to Guardian 20 about this project, Nadar said, “The new space will include one permanent gallery showing our personal collection, along with four to five different galleries where a number of exhibitions will be planned throughout the year. We will also construct other cultural centres, such as auditoriums for various art events inside the museum. Once the space is fully functional, it is very likely that we will be collaborating with foreign museums in order to bring their shows to this city. Overall, the museum will incorporate a holistic approach, aiming to draw a number of people towards the arts.”

According to her, there is very little public participation in the arts in Delhi, a city that still has a substandard museum infrastructure by global standards. “The intelligentsia is not really museum-conscious in this city, so getting people to the shows is quite a battle. We really need to find ways to get people more engaged in art. And this is really important. If you look at the heritage we have in the country, art is such an important aspect of our lives and we should not lose it,” she said.

For years now, Nadar has been working on making the best in Indian and international art accessible to the general public. Besides setting up museums, her team has been involved in public art projects as well—they decorated an underpass and 10 Metro stations in Noida a few months ago.

Now, she plans to take her art projects to smaller cities as well. According to her, more people in tier-2 cities, unlike in the big metros, are drawn towards the arts. She said, “If you go to any art show in Jaipur, you will easily have around 300-400 people attending the launch. In these cities as the primary focus is not really on malls and movies, promoting the arts is not as challenging as we find here.”

But at the same time, she thinks smaller cities lack a viable support system for struggling artists. It is imperative for state authorities to start paying serious attention to the arts. Cultural ministries should also be taking adequate steps to ensure support for local artists. “Authorities need to be pro art, and the cultural ministry should be doing more. We don’t have a focus from the centre, which is very much needed. Look at NGMA [National Gallery of Modern Art]. It is close to India Gate making it a fantastic location for tourists. They also have a huge collection. And it’s just a matter of promoting the place in the right way, because nowadays when tourists visit the place they don’t come out feeling too enriched,” she said.

Nadar is one of the International Council members of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. So she is bringing to the Indian art scene her global outlook. “You get different insights. You understand that it [MOMA] is much larger in its vision and when that vision gets transferred to you, you get to learn a lot, from seasoned collectors. So when a small Indian museum is part of such a large conglomerate, it gives you a lot if exposure, which you don’t normally get.”

According to her, Western museums provide a wide-ranging view of the arts to visitors. “When you look at a show in a Western gallery, you can make sense of how a curator has focused on different aspects of an artist. You see aspects that are missing here.”

Her own taste in art has matured significantly over the years. She says, “There were certain artists in the ’70s and ’80s who used to make very pretty, beautiful works. But today, while I still have those works, I feel that I will not go and look to acquire such works. If I like a painting I don’t necessarily go by the public choice. I look at the paintings quite personally. I also buy works which I feel might fill a gap in my collection. There was a time when the Bengal School was not properly represented but I built up a collection and now I have very good Bengal school collection. That happened because I felt the collection is not well-represented.”

Over the years, Nadar has built up a reasonably good collection of some 5000-plus artworks and counting. The first paintings she bought in 1989 were by Rameshwar Broota, M.F. Husain and Manjit Bawa. She said, “I had never studied art. So I would say that whatever I had bought at the beginning of my career as a collector, I think that had stood the test of time. Like Husain painted a lot of fantastic and some not-so-great works. I think I was drawn towards the more important among Husain’s works.”

Her focus nowadays is on collecting tribal art, sculptures and miniatures which she thinks have been largely ignored by the mainstream:  “Tribal and miniature arts need our immediate

For Nadar, collecting art serves an important purpose, of preserving fragments from the past. And to succeed as an art collector, you have to trust your vision, as Nadar has always done.