Nek Chand

Nek Chand Saini (15 December 1924 – 12 June 2015) was a self-taught Indian artist, known for building the Rock Garden of Chandigarh, an eighteen-acre sculpture garden in the city of Chandigarh.

He hailed from Shakargarh tehsil. Shakargarh was previously in Gurdaspur district in British India, but now falls in district Narowal in Pakistan). His family moved to Chandigarh in 1947 during the Partition. They moved to Chandigarh in 1955. At the time, the city was being redesigned as a modern utopia by the Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. It was to be the first planned city in India, and Chand found work there as a roads inspector for the Public Works Department in 1951. He was awarded the Padma Shri by Government of India in 1984. He died in 2015.

 

The Rock Garden is one of the most famous sites in India. Chand, its creator, died in 2015, but it is still visited by millions of people every year.

In his spare time, Nek Chand began collecting materials from demolition sites around the city . He recycled these materials into his own vision of the divine kingdom of Sukrani,New Delhi choosing a gorge in a forest near Sukhna Lake for his work. The gorge had been designated as a land conservancy, a forest buffer established in 1902 that nothing could be built on. Chand’s work was illegal, but he was able to hide it for eighteen years before it was discovered by the authorities in 1975. By this time, it had grown into a 13-acre (5.3 ha) complex of interlinked courtyards, each filled with hundreds of pottery-covered concrete sculptures of dancers, musicians, and animals. Made from recycled materials, Chand built up the mass with a cement and sand mix before adding a final coating of smoothly burnished pure cement combined with waste materials such as broken glass, bangles, crockery, mosaic and iron-foundry slag.

His work was in serious danger of being demolished, but he was able to get public opinion on his side, and in 1986 the park was inaugurated as a public space. Chand was given a salary, a title (“Sub-Divisional Engineer, Rock Garden”), and a workforce of 50 labourers so that he could concentrate full-time on his work. It even appeared on an Indian stamp in 1983. The Rock Garden is still made out of recycled materials; and with the government’s help, Chand was able to set up collection centres around the city for waste, especially rags and broken ceramics.

When Chand left the country on a lecture tour in 1996, the city withdrew its funding, and vandals attacked the park. The Rock Garden Society took over the administration and upkeep of this unique visionary environment. The garden is visited by over five thousand people daily, the second most popular location in India (after the Taj Mahal) with a total of more than twelve million visitor. The rock garden is visited by thousands of people everyday. It has become the famous tourist attraction in INDIA

 

Exhibitions

Chand’s statues have found their way into museums across the world, including an environment at the Capitol Children’s Museum in Washington, D.C., the American Folk Art Museum in New York City and the main entrance to the Collection de l’art brut in LausanneSwitzerland. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin, USA owns the largest collection of Chand’s work outside of Chandigarh. The pieces were on exhibition there from June 2007 to January 2008 as part of the museum’s focus on artist environment builders, or outsider artists.

An exhibition of Chand’s work also took place at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) gallery in LiverpoolEngland from 16 April to 11 May 2007. The exhibition displayed survey drawings of the garden’s architecture and landscaping, and plans to be a travelling exhibition.

Numerous Nek Chand sculptures are also displayed in the gardens and on the walkways of the campus of the American Embassy School in New Delhi.

There is a Nek Chand Foundation in London founded to raise funds for the garden.