written by Emma Sumner
Artist, Curator and Writer


The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, was established in 2010 by the avid and well respected collector Kiran Nadar who had the vision to establish a space in which she could share and grow her extensive collection of South Asian Modern and Contemporary art.  India’s first philanthropic museum, the KNMA was at first greeted with a slight amount of hesitation, but over its short five year existence has quickly established a reputation as a world class museum and art hub.  Situated in the heart of Delhi, India’s bustling capital city, this young and forward thinking museum is already changing the future of exhibition making in India.

Since Kiran Nadar handed the care of her collection over to the museum five years ago, her extensive collection has continued to grow at a steady rate and now boasts one of the most comprehensive collections of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, including numerous iconic works by 20th century post-Independence Indian painters and works by younger contemporaries.  In 2015, KNMA will, for the first time, tour their 2013 exhibition View to infinity NASREEN MOHAMEDI: A Retrospective to the Rene Sophia in Madrid, Spain; a sign of how highly regarded the exhibitions this young institution produces are in the international art world.

Central to all of the KNMA activities and exhibitions is its focus on bridging the current ‘disconnect between art and the public’ in India, an issue which appears to be of little concern to the country’s government run institutions.  Through its extensive public programme KNMA looks to build a strong ‘museum-going culture’ within Indian; as the museum’s Director Roobina Karode explains:

“KNMA has come a long way in five years and is bristling with great energy. Our approach in our exhibitions and outreach is three-fold: to be local, national and international simultaneously. We speak in all the three tones and scales in the everyday of the museum. Besides building the Collection, our exhibitions and programs have been bringing international visibility to the South Asian modern and contemporary art, as much as generating awareness and knowledge on Indian modern art history through regular symposiums and interactions with students. The key areas we aspire to tap in the coming years is to plan more commissioned art programs to encourage young contemporary artists within India and to host more inter-disciplinary dialogues and conversations.”

By implanting a deep appreciation for art amongst the younger generation, KNMA is creating its future audience, but as Karode explains, the museum’s engagement activity does not start and end there.  With a programme of various activities that create an active dialogue around its exhibitions and collection works, the KNMA is establishing itself as a site for visual and intellectual exchange between peers.  Core to this work is the extensive Library and Archive the organisation is cultivating through donations of historic and rare exhibition catalogues and other documentation.  Talking about the museum’s research initiatives with Curator Akansha Rastogi, she explained:

“In the last five years of our existence our major focus was to consolidate and activate an audience base for our variety of programs. Having successfully achieved that, our energies are now inclined towards creating more academically rigorous programs with varied durations such as ‘Research Intensive’ on one hand, hosting clubs and societies of different practitioners all the year round to grow around the museum and encourage peer-sharing on the other hand, and to collaborate with many national educational institutions such as NCERT etc. We’re working intensely towards opening up the museum’s library and archive to researchers and general public, and our future programs would be focused upon activating the museum collection and archive to newer entry points.”

With all of its extensive activity the KNMA is rapidly outgrowing its current premises, a commercial unit nestled in-between numerous corporate offices behind the overbearing Saket Walk Mall.  This, however, has always been a temporary space as the museum has ongoing plans for a new landmark building, a space which will encompass the organisations ambitions to be a vital platform that encourages the experience of art while stimulating dialogue and exchange.

Already outgrowing its current space and with plans for its landmark building fully behind all of its activity, we can expect to see more innovative and dedicated work being done by this growing institution as it encourages active engagement with its collection and greets new audiences. The KNMA’s work is reaching out to the core of Delhi’s citizens and spreading an affection for and appreciation of art which will, without a doubt, have a significant impact on future generations of museum visitors in India.